Cocoa Powder – It’s More Than Just Chocolate!
When you think about “chocolate”, you’ll often visualize the rich and delicious chocolate you can purchase from a store. We all have our favorite chocolate bars, candies, or even cookies 😉, but do we know what really goes into making them? Probably not. So here we are, to tell you all about the wonders of the ingredient at the basis of chocolate – cocoa powder – why we use it in our cookies and brownies, and how it can be used properly in your daily life! But before we dive into the laundry list of health benefits, it’s important to discuss the difference between cacao (chocolate in its most natural form), and cocoa (chocolate in its most delicious form). So let’s dive in, shall we?!
TRUST THE PROCESS
There have been many myths in the health food world, but the one about chocolate being good for you is NOT one of them! That is, as long as it has at least 70% cacao/cocoa content. We say either or because the use of cacao vs. cocoa on ingredient labels/chocolate products is very inconsistent – while some brands tend to use cacao to sound healthier and more natural, that may not always be the case. In fact most chocolatiers who make chocolate from scratch will use cacao to refer to the pod and beans before they’re fermented, and after fermentation call them cocoa beans. To properly explain the difference between cacao and cocoa, we’re going to take you through how chocolate is made.
Fermentation - The raw beans are put into bins, covered for a few days to let the microbes feed on the pulp which ferments the beans. This is where the chocolate flavour and smell starts to flourish.
Drying - The beans are dried for many days, then sorted and sold to chocolate makers.
Roasting - This more fully develops the chocolate flavour, and gives it some sweetness.
Crushing - The beans are crushed and separated from their outer shells, resulting in broken cacao pieces called “nibs”.
Grinding - Grinding down the nibs turns into a non-alcoholic liquor – to make chocolate, all you have to do is combine the liquor with other ingredients (usually vanilla, sugar and more cocoa butter).
To make cocoa powder, the liquor – which is roughly half fat in the form of cocoa butter – is pressed to remove most of the fat. Now let’s get into the good stuff! Here are some of the exciting health benefits of cocoa powder!
THE BENEFITS OF COCOA POWDER
LOWERS INSULIN RESISTANCE
The flavonoids in cocoa appear to enhance the cells’ ability to secrete insulin, which improves insulin sensitivity.
LOWERS BLOOD PRESSURE AND IMPROVES CIRCULATION
The Flavanols found in cacao promotes vasodilation in the arteries, enhancing blood flow and reducing blood pressure.
FIGHTS IRON DEFICIENCY ANEMIA
Cocoa is the one of the highest plant based source of Iron, be sure to pair it with vitamin C source to ensure proper absorption.
Flavanol-rich cocoa activates anti-inflammatory pathways by promoting growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal microbiota. The nitric oxide production by the flavanols also improves mitochondrial structure and function.
Cocoa contains theobromine, which is an alkaloid that contains caffeine. It stimulates your nervous system and relaxes your muscles. Historically, it was also considered an aphrodisiac
MAY REDUCE RISK OF HEART DISEASE & STROKE
The proanthocyanidin flavonoids in cocoa powder help reduce free radicals that counter artery- clogging plaque.
PROMOTES MENTAL HEALTH
Flavonoids found in cocoa preserve cognitive abilities during ageing in rats, and has been seen to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in humans. It also has a beneficial effect on the vascular system and brain blood flow, and causes that feel good effect on the brain which gives you the feeling of being in love!
WHY DO WE USE COCOA POWDER?
Because we care, of course! Our top priorities are being allergy-friendly, delicious, and telling the truth on our labels. We use real ingredients that are actually good for you, rather than using fillers disguised as “natural flavours”. Our Chocolate Chip, Double Chocolate and Chocolate Fudge Brownies are made with dairy-free chocolate chips of course, and one of our favourite ingredients… COCOA POWDER! Basically, if you’re headed toward a healthier lifestyle, make sure to incorporate cocoa powder into your diet, and treat yourself to some (for us, dairy-free) chocolate!