Things that have never been more popular: CBD and cauliflower—and now cacao. The superfood is a staple in healthy recipes, snacks, and desserts. But beyond the taste, are there any legitimate benefits of cacao?
Enter Well+Good's new video series, Plant-Based, which aims to dig deep (pun intended) into all things that grow in the ground and how they impact your health and nutrition. For the first episode, we talked to herbalist and holistic nutritionist Rachelle Robinett to get the goods on all things cacao and, TL;DR, I really want to run to Whole Foods and grab some cacao nibs right now.
Cacao is not the same as chocolate. Like cocoa powder and chocolate, it comes from the cacao bean, but cacao is made from unroasted, cold-pressed beans and without added sugar. This helps it preserve a very impressive nutrient profile, says Robinett.
"Cacao is very nutrient dense," says Robinett. It's high in antioxidants as well as nutrients like magnesium (which can help reduce stress), potassium, and iron. Cacao is also high in healthy fats to help us stay satiated and energized, she adds.
Another perk to cacao is its alkaloid content. Alkaloids are naturally-occurring compounds often found in plants; the alkaloids in cacao, Robinett says, "interact with different neurotransmitters in our body and help us feel good." So, yeah, there's a reason why eating a piece of dark chocolate makes you feel so damn good.
All of this makes cacao a great before-bed snack. "I am a huge fan of cacao or dark chocolate before bed," Robinett says. Cacao has only minimal amounts of caffeine and considering its magnesium and alkaloid profile, it's something to try when you want to calm down, she says. Yet another reason to look forward to bedtime, IMO!
For more on the benefits of cacao, plus a delicious dark chocolate recipe straight from Robinett, be sure to watch the video above.
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