Cacao powder is one of the healthiest superfoods on the planet. Derived from the raw cacao bean, cacao retains more nutrients compared to regular cocoa powder which is heated during processing. While both cacao and cocoa offer health advantages, cacao is particularly rich in brain-boosting flavonoids called flavonols.
In this article, we’ll explore the many evidenced-based wellness benefits of adding cacao powder into your diet.
Cacao Powder Enhances Cognitive Function and May Protect Against Age-Related Cognitive Decline
The flavonols found abundantly in cacao have been linked to improved cognitive function and blood flow to the brain. Studies suggest these compounds may also shield the brain from age-related cognitive decline.
The antioxidants in cacao support neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to form new neural connections. This is the key to learning and memory. Cacao’s anti-inflammatory effects further safeguard the brain against deterioration.
Including cacao in your diet can boost focus, concentration, and mental clarity. Theobromine, an alkaloid in cacao, additionally acts as a mild stimulant for improved alertness without the “crash” of caffeinated drinks.
Cacao Powder Promotes Healthy, Youthful-Looking Skin
Free radicals from UV radiation and pollution damage skin cells, causing premature aging. Cacao’s robust antioxidant content, especially flavonoids and polyphenols, neutralize these free radicals before they can harm skin.
By combating oxidative stress, cacao protects collagen and elastin, preserving skin’s firmness and elasticity. The increased blood flow from cacao provides skin with more oxygen and nutrients for a radiant, youthful glow. The anti-inflammatory effects also reduce redness and irritation.
Daily cacao can safeguard your skin against the elements, reducing wrinkles, fine lines, and hyperpigmentation.
Cacao Powder Enhances Mood and Mental Wellbeing
The “feel good” effects of chocolate come from cacao compounds like theobromine. As a mild stimulant, theobromine elevates mood and promotes relaxation without drowsiness.
Cacao also contains neurotransmitter-boosting tryptophan which gets converted to serotonin in the brain. This increases feelings of wellbeing and happiness.
By reducing inflammation and boosting cerebral blood flow, cacao powder creates a sense of calmness and serenity. The magnesium in cacao further aids in healthy stress responses.
Adding cacao to your diet is a tasty way to enhance mood, beat stress, and reduce anxiety.
Cacao Powder Supports Insulin Sensitivity and Blood Sugar Balance
The flavonoids in cacao have beneficial effects on insulin resistance and blood sugar management. Studies demonstrate that cacao can increase insulin sensitivity and reverse insulin resistance.
By improving the function of insulin-releasing pancreatic beta cells, cacao helps stabilize blood sugar variations. This makes cacao an excellent supplement for those with insulin resistance, prediabetes, or type 2 diabetes.
Through its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant mechanisms, cacao lowers the risk of developing complications from uncontrolled blood sugar. Maintaining healthy blood glucose levels minimizes glycation – the damaging effects of excess sugar in the bloodstream.
Cacao Powder Promotes Digestive Health and Gut Flora
With around 11 grams of fiber per 100 grams, cacao powder aids digestive regularity. The fiber adds bulk to stool promoting healthy bowel movements.
Cacao’s antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds create optimal conditions for beneficial gut flora to thrive. A flourishing microbiome strengthens immunity as 80% of immune cells reside in the gut.
The polyphenols in cacao also inhibit the growth of unhealthy gut bacteria and candida overgrowth. By supporting total body wellness, a healthy gut microbiome is foundational.
Cacao Powder Boosts Exercise Recovery and Prevents Muscle Cramps
Strenuous workouts cause microscopic tears in muscle tissues. The antioxidant activity of cacao reduces exercise-induced damage and accelerates muscle recovery.
Cacao’s magnesium relaxes contracted muscles and prevents painful cramps and spasms. This applies not just to exercised muscles but also alleviates general tension and tightness.
With its plethora of plant compounds, cacao powder promotes overall tissue health. It protects cells from oxidative damage that occurs during intense exercise.
Cacao taken before or after a workout helps minimize soreness allowing you to return to exercise sooner.
Cacao Powder Provides Cardiovascular Health Benefits
One of the most researched areas around cacao is its immense benefits for heart health and circulation. Let’s look at some of the ways cacao powder promotes cardiovascular wellness:
1. Improves Endothelial Function
The flavonoids in cacao called epicatechins relax and dilate blood vessels by enhancing endothelial function. The endothelial cells line the interior surface of all arteries and capillaries.
2. Lowers Blood Pressure
By relaxing blood vessels and improving circulation, cacao has a direct blood pressure lowering effect. Cacao’s magnesium content also supports healthy blood pressure.
3. Reduces Risk of Blood Clots
The epicatechins in cacao inhibit platelet aggregation making blood thinner and less prone to clotting. Normalizing blood viscosity prevents heart attacks and strokes.
4. Combats Oxidative Stress
Free radical damage is a precursor to atherosclerosis. Cacao’s abundant antioxidants neutralize these harmful compounds before cardiovascular harm ensues.
5. Clears Arterial Plaque Buildup
Cacao flavonoids prevent atherosclerotic plaque accumulation by lowering LDL oxidation and improving endothelial function.
6. Regulates Cholesterol Levels
Cacao has a balancing effect on cholesterol profiles by reducing LDL oxidation and elevating HDL or “good” cholesterol.
In summary, by directly enhancing circulation, arterial function, and cardiovascular health, cacao powder is one of the best supplements to add to your diet for heart health.
How To Include Cacao In Your Diet
Cacao powder offers maximal nutritional benefits when minimally processed. Look for raw cacao that hasn’t been blanched or subject to high temperatures. Here are some ways to enjoy cacao daily:
- Add 1-2 tablespoons into your morning smoothie
- Mix into oatmeal or chia pudding
- Make homemade chocolate with cacao, coconut oil and natural sweeteners
- Use in baking brownies, cookies, or muffins
- Blend into coffee drinks in place of cocoa powder
- Mix into nut butter and spread on fruit
- Make chocolate energy bars or truffles
With its abundance of polyphenols and versatile flavor, cacao powder is an easy superfood to incorporate into sweet and savory recipes. Always opt for organic, low-temperature processed raw cacao powder to reap the amazing benefits outlined in this article.
Cacao contains an astounding number of beneficial plant compounds that enhance nearly every aspect of health – from cognitive ability to skin rejuvenation to cardiovascular protection and beyond. With emerging research uncovering its multifaceted therapeutic effects, cacao is one of the world’s greatest functional superfoods.
Cacao powder offers incredible health benefits for brain function, skin health, mood, blood sugar regulation, digestion, exercise recovery, heart health, and more. Load your diet with cacao’s antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and brain-boosting compounds by adding raw cacao powder into smoothies, baked goods, coffee drinks, energy bars, and chocolate recipes. Cacao is a true superfood that enhances overall wellness in multiple body systems.