Cacao vs. Cocoa – Is there a difference?

Discover the amazing health benefits of cacao

Confused about whether cocoa and cacao are the same thing but spelt differently?

You’re not alone.

The terms cacao and cocoa are used interchangeably so it’s no wonder people get confused.

Anything chocolatey will be made from either cacao or cocoa. They both come from the same source, the Theobroma tree, but the way they are processed is completely different. It affects the taste and the nutritional profile significantly.

Here’s the lowdown on cacao vs. cocoa and what you need to know.

What is Cacao?

Native to South America, raw cacao is an amazing superfood from the cacao beans of the Theobroma cacao tree. The cacao beans are either chopped up to make cacao nibs or cold-pressed to make cacao powder. With its rich, chocolate flavour and host of health benefits, cacao is a must-have superfood for your pantry.

How is Cocoa different to Cacao?

Cocoa is the processed version of cacao. It’s widely used in commercial chocolate bars, hot chocolate powders and baked products. The cacao beans are cleaned, roasted at a high temperature and chemically processed. Undergoing this process means they lose a significant amount of their nutritional value and antioxidants. Non-organic cocoa (and chocolate) is heavily treated with toxic pesticides and chemicals.

Cocoa is cheaper than cacao, hence why it’s widely used in chocolate-flavoured products. Many food manufacturers say their products contain cacao, when in fact they are using cocoa.

Try our cacao husks

Cacao health benefits 

Love chocolate but feel guilty eating it?

Well, if you’re eating or drinking the good stuff, raw cacao, there’s no need to worry.

Cacao has a multitude of health benefits – it’s actually good for you. We love the stuff!

Here’s why:

  • Cacao is packed full of flavonoids, a type of antioxidant which protects the body against toxins and free radical damage.
  • It’s an excellent source of magnesium. This vital mineral helps keep us healthy. We need it for energy production, heart health and to regulate muscles, nerves and blood sugar levels. Magnesium is also essential in times of stress.
  • Cacao is the highest plant-based source of iron so it’s an excellent source for vegetarians and vegans. 100g of cacao contains 7.3mg of iron which is 75% of the recommended daily intake for an adult.
  • Improves mood and wellbeing by increasing the production of feel-good hormones such as serotonin and tryptophan.
  • A good source of protein and amino acids which are essential for tissue repair and hormone production.
  • Cacao contains more calcium than milk so your bones will thank you.
  • Consuming cacao 15 minutes prior to a workout can improve your physical performance and energy levels.
  • With anti-inflammatory properties, cacao may enhance cardiovascular function and circulation so it’s beneficial for those with high blood pressure and cholesterol.

*Cacao does contain some caffeine so only consume a small amount if you’re sensitive to caffeine.

Need a cacao recipe?

Cacao is a versatile superfood. You can use cacao in smoothies, baking, raw treats, chocolate mousse or hot chocolate.

Try our favourite hot chocolate recipe.

  • Add 1 tsp of cacao husk and rose petals to a saucepan.
  • Add 1 cup of your preferred milk*.
  • Heat until it simmers.
  • Strain and pour into a cup.
  • Add a natural sweetener of your choice.

You can also serve it cold by storing it in the fridge for a few hours – this is delicious on a hot day!

*Helpful tip: Calcium blocks iron absorption. If you’re trying to increase your iron intake with cacao, opt for dairy-free milk such as almond or oat, instead of cow’s milk.

Boost your mood and energy with cacao

Packed full of antioxidants and nutrients, cacao is an amazing superfood to add to your diet. It may boost your energy levels and mood, increase iron levels and improve physical performance during exercise. For maximum nutrients, always opt for cacao, not cocoa, the processed version.

Try our Cacao Husk & Rose

Michelle is a qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist and Medical Herbalist. Her areas of expertise include digestive issues, detoxification, weight loss, hormonal health, natural fertility management and mental health. Michelle is also a wellness blogger and author who believes good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are key for optimum health and vitality.

Over to you

If you liked this article, please share with your chocolate-loving friends.