They sound similar, look similar and have almost interchangeable names, but cacao and cocoa are actually quite different.
While both cacao and cocoa are good for you, cacao is the rawest, purest form of chocolate a person can eat. Unlike cocoa, cacao is not processed, and is exploding with both magnesium and antioxidants. In fact, cacao has more antioxidants and magnesium per serving than almost any other food.
If you come across cacao nibs or cacao powder in the grocery store, you’re buying pure chocolate. It hasn’t been cooked, processed or mixed with sugar.
Cocoa and cocoa powder is much more common, and is made when raw cacao is roasted and processed. Some cocoas have sweeteners added. Even if you buy cocoa powder without added sugar, the antioxidant and magnesium levels are lessened, as are the other nutrients found in raw cacao (iron, copper, zinc, and calcium, to name a few).
Cacao tends to be a bit pricier than traditional cocoa, so if you’re watching your budget, additive-free cocoa is almost as good.
We’re big fans of raw cacao and its nutritional benefits. Here are a few smoothies that celebrate this delicious superfood in all its glory!
Chocolate Coconut Cream Pie with Cacao
Cacao is chocolate in its purest form, which allows you to have all the benefits and flavor of chocolate without the fat and sugar. Cacao also has extremely high amounts of antioxidants and magnesium per serving, as well as a good amount of fiber. Most people know that coconut water is extra hydrating and full of healthy electrolytes, but a small amount of coconut flakes provide another workout boost: energy in the form of good fat. This smoothie is perfect for an all natural pre-workout drink.
Mesquite--it’s not just for barbecue! The seasoning adds a nutty flavor that makes this smoothie taste like a chocolate milkshake. Did you know that cacao is among the best dietary sources of magnesium, which helps improve muscle and nerve function? Add a date for sweetness and Swiss chard for some essential vitamins and minerals. Banana and avocado make it creamy! (Save the other half of the avocado for the next smoothie on this menu...)
Creamy and Craveable Cacao Zucchini
You work hard in the gym or in class, so once in a while, it’s time to treat yo’self. To avoid turning that treat into a train wreck that derails your best laid diet plans, focus on adding in health-enhancing superfoods like cacao and sunflower seed butter. This creamy, cacao-filled smoothie reminds me of chocolate zucchini bread.
Cacao Maqui Grape
Maqui berry is a fruit originating from Chile. It’s claim to fame is that it's one of the most antioxidant rich foods on the plant. NBD, right? Not only does it kick free-radical butt, it also contains Vitamin C, iron, calcium, potassium and anti-inflammatory compounds. It’s no wonder it has catapulted itself to superfood status. Take this smoothie to the next level and try freezing your grapes for an extra frosty affect.
Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
Chocolate-dipped strawberries are irresistible, and this smoothie is a healthful way to enjoy the sweet treats. Fresh strawberries are one of the most delicious ways to get your vitamin C. Spinach and banana blend beautifully and provide a boost of nutrients. Besides being the guiltless way to enjoy the flavor of chocolate, cocoa powder is high in fiber, iron, magnesium, antioxidants, and may have antidepressant effects!
Mint Chocolate Chip
This classic combo will wow your tastebuds. Fresh mint and cacao nibs give this smoothie its comfort-food flavor. Banana and apple add fiber and stomach-settling properties. Sneak your greens in with our fresh collards. Did you know that walnuts can help reduce stress? Studies show that walnuts lower both resting blood pressure and blood pressure responses to stress. Nothing wrong with that!
This smoothie is so creamy and chocolatey. Bananas and cacao powder mix with sesame tahini, an excellent source of calcium and B vitamins. Tahini contains methionine, which aids in liver detoxification. Peruvian maca powder is also rich in B vitamins, as well as vitamins C and E. It provides plenty of calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and amino acids. It’s like old-timey malt shop treat with health benefits!
Cashew Butter Chocolate Pretzel
Cacao powder is our favorite way to deliver decadent chocolatey goodness with none of the extra sugar or fat. Cashews are so versatile! The butter is a tasty alternative to almond or peanut butter, and contains more iron, copper, and phosphorus. Gluten free oats give this concoction it’s baked good appeal, and Swiss chard provides 13 different polyphenol antioxidants. Get sweetness, fiber, potassium, and pectin from banana and pear!
If you’d like a weekly serving of nutrient rich cacao (plus a bunch of other tasty superfoods), sign up for Green Blender today!