What’s the difference between cocoa and cacao? Good question! Other than a few rearranged letters, it may not seem like very much! But let’s take a closer look…
I’ve spent more than a few trips to the grocery store scratching my head…
… wondering if the more cost-efficient cocoa was really just the same as the more expensive cacao.
I mean they look the same. They feel the same. Heck, they TASTE the same!
So what’s the deal? What’s the difference between cacao and cocoa? Is there any difference at all or is this some sort of weird social experiment!?
Well, here’s the answer: cacao and cocoa are the same thing. Yet very different.
The technical difference between cocoa and cacao:
The Cacao Tree (Theobroma cacao if you’re into botany-speak) is the tree from which the cacao bean comes. Cacao beans are found inside the “fruit” of the tree, in football-sized pods.
When we see “cacao nibs” or “powdered cacao” for sale, we are seeing the bean in its raw state, uncooked and unprocessed. Then after the beans are cleaned, roasted and processed, they are called “cocoa.”
So cacao is essentially the raw version of cacao.
(Yes yes, it would be a whole lot simpler if they were to just call cacao “raw cocoa” but I’m not making the rules here.)
The nutritional difference between cocoa and cacao:
Cacao and cocoa are both antioxidant powerhouses, though cacao is significantly more powerful.
ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) is a method of measuring antioxidants in biological samples. It is likely not something you typically consider as much as calories or other nutritional facts, but it’s really useful when comparing apples to oranges. Or, er, cocoa to cacao. Per 100 grams:
- Raw cacao powder has an ORAC value of 95,500
- Raw cacao nibs have an ORAC value of 62,100
- Roasted cocoa powder as an ORAC value of 26,000
Raw cacao powder therefore has significantly more antioxidant power.
To boot, raw cacao is an excellent source of essential fatty acids, fiber, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, calcium and sulfur. Unfortunately, once roasted and processed, cacao, now cocoa, loses much of its nutritional benefits.
So when confronted with both cocoa and cacao, choose the latter if you want more of those free-radical fighting antioxidants!
Thanks to its sky-high antioxidant content, cacao has many, many proven health benefits.
Studies have found that cacao:
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Lowers blood pressure
- Lowers cortisol (body’s main stress hormone) levels
- Boosts mood
- Reduces the risk of stroke and developing heart disease
- Improves memory by improving blood flow to the brain
- Improves cognitive performance.
- Increases energy levels
Pretty amazing, right!?
Oh! You can also use cacao to make an antioxidant-packed face mask: DIY All-Natural Rich Mocha Mud Mask