Cacao is the unsung hero of the modern healthy diet however few people know why it is such a superfood. And out of all the superfoods, this is the one most deserving of this accolade. Many parents ask me why cacao is in so many of my recipes for babies and toddlers. I'm going to explain the ins and outs of why this is.
These sound very similar but their nutritional differences are vast. Raw cacao is the purest form of chocolate you can consume, meaning it is raw and unprocessed compared to chocolate in bar form or in cocoa.
Normal cocoa powder and chocolate have been chemically processed and roasted, destroying a large amount of the antioxidants and flavanols (nutrients keeping you young and healthy). A recent study suggested between 60% and 90% of the original antioxidants in cacao are lost through common “Dutch processing”. Dutch processing was originally developed in the early 19th Century to reduce the bitterness, darken the colour, and create a more mellow flavour to chocolate, but unfortunately also eliminated a bunch of the goodness.
Oxfam estimates that over 70% of the world’s cocoa is grown by indigenous communities who are paid such a low wage with poverty widespread. In some instances, child slaves are used, forced to engage in dangerous work such as using machetes and applying toxic pesticides. Big incentive to reach for a bar of fair trade chocolate when your next craving hits!
Raw Organic Fairly Traded Cacao in contrast has bountiful benefits, so you can add it to your diet with no guilt, just good old chocolatey deliciousness.
6 BENEFITS OF RAW ORGANIC CACAO
1. It has a staggering 40 Times the Antioxidants of Blueberries
Raw organic cacao has over 40 times the antioxidants of blueberries. Yes, a staggering 40 times! It has an amazing ORAC score of 98,000 per 100g, vs blueberries at a mere 2,400. ORAC scores measure the ability of antioxidants to absorb free radicals (from pollution and toxins in our environment), which cause cell and tissue damage leading to diseases such as cancer.
2. Highest Plant-Based Source of Iron
Cacao is the highest plant-based source of iron known to man, at a whopping 7.3mg per 100g. This compares to beef and lamb at 2.5mg, and spinach at 3.6mg. The iron in cacao is non-haem (as is all plant-based iron), so to get the maximum benefits you’ll want to combine it with some vitamin C ( oranges, kiwifruit). Iron has the ability to raise the IQ by a whopping 10 points in children. Iron deficiency is incredibly common in the 6 months to 3-year-olds and cacao can help your little one maximise their iron intake. Use it in smoothies, cacao, and chia puddings and in rice pudding for dessert.
3. Full of Magnesium for a Healthy Heart & Brain
Raw organic cacao is one of the highest plant-based sources of magnesium, the most deficient mineral in the Western world. Magnesium is important for a healthy heart helping convert glucose into energy enabling your childs brain to work with laser-sharp clarity and focus.
4. Tryptophan to help sleep
Tryptophan is the amino acid helping you get to sleep and stay asleep. Combined with low glycemic index carbohydrates it converts to melatonin in the brain. It takes just one hour for tryptophan to teach the brain and trigger sleep. Offer a no sugar dessert and you're onto a winner for a good night's sleep. All my top sleep-promoting recipes are in my Nurture & Nourish eBook in the online program with menu plans to help you.
5. More Calcium Than Cow’s Milk
Raw Organic Cacao has more calcium than cow’s milk, at 160mg per 100g vs only 125mg per 100ml of milk. Perfect for those developing bones and healthy teeth.
6. A Natural Mood Elevator and Anti-Depressant
Cacao is a great source of four scientifically proven bliss chemicals – serotonin, tryptophan, tyrosine, and phenylethylamine. These neurotransmitters are associated with feelings of well-being, happiness, and can even alleviate depression.
Now you can see why raw organic cacao needs to be part of your and your child's diet. And it is surprisingly low in caffeine despite what everyone thinks. On average, one cup of coffee contains about 95 mg of caffeine. ... A cup of brewed cacao uses about 2 tablespoons of cacao, so one cup of brewed cacao has only about 24 mg of caffeine. Only about 25% amount of caffeine found in coffee!
The caffeine content in cacao is significantly lower than a cup of coffee.
Cacao Powder and Cacao Nibs:
- Cacao Powder = 49mg of caffeine / 15g (2.5 Tbsp.) serving
- Cacao Nibs = 41mg of caffeine / 30g (3 Tbsp.) serving
And for a little perspective:
- Coffee; 1 cup brewed: 80-135mg
- Coffee; 1 cup drip: 115-175mg
- Coffee; 1 shot espresso: 75-100mg
- Black tea: 49-90mg
- Green tea: 20-45mg
The cacao properties and benefits are hugely beneficial and the tryptophan will balance out the caffeine and help induce sleep.
These are two of my go-to recipes for babies and children.