It’s no secret that chocolate is one of the most cherished sweet treats in modern society. If you are like most chocolate lovers, you have seen the words cacao, or cocoa listed on a few chocolate products. Perhaps it never crossed your mind to consider the difference between the two. You probably assumed they were the same thing, and absently dismissed the variation in spelling.
It is important to note, though, that cocoa and cacao are different forms of chocolate, and the distinction relies heavily on how it is processed. The discrepancy is also in the nutritional benefits each one affords.
Cocoa vs Cacao – What is the difference?
The Theobroma cacao tree is the source of cocoa and cacao. It yields seed pods that contain cacao beans. These beans can be consumed as is and generally offer a bitter taste that is much different from the sweet chocolate most people know.
The most healthful benefits are credited to raw cacao beans. Cacao is said to host the following benefits when eaten in its most natural form:
- Manage insulin levels
- Improve cognitive abilities
- Reduce blood pressure
- Antioxidant properties
- Enhance heart health
While cocoa is created through various processes. It endures elevated temperatures and substantial modifications during the processing stage, which tend to alter its inherent properties. It is available on the market as natural cocoa powder, Dutch-processed cocoa powder, and cocoa butter.
It is also available as chocolate nibs and chocolate chips but often contains additional ingredients such as sugar and dairy, which undermine its remaining benefits. Furthermore, the more complex the product, the more processes it has undergone to achieve its state. This often results in a product that is not reflective of the real benefits cacao provides.
How Is Cacao Beneficial For The Brain?
Flavanol is a plant nutrient that is found in various foods. However, the emphasis has been placed on cocoa flavanols as it is the most apparent in the cacao beans. The consumption of cocoa flavanols has been linked to increased blood flow to the brain, improved insulin resistance, and other factors that impact the brain.
According to a 2012 study, mature adults with mild dementia seen a clear improvement in their thinking skills. These results were revealed based on the participants' daily consumption of cocoa flavanols.
For some time, flavonoids have been admired for their contribution to brain health. These plant nutrients are supported for their likelihood to defend against neurotoxins and promote significant functions of the brain, such as memory and the ability to absorb new information.
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