Written by Jessica Folkerts, Ombar: In recent years, raw cacao has seen a surge in popularity, as part of the wider movement towards healthier, more natural indulgence. As consumers become increasingly health-conscious and concerned about where their food comes from – from both a health and an ethical perspective – retailers are challenged with diversifying their offerings to meet modern-day demands.
Factors driving this change in consumer shopping habits include the rise of veganism and the organic and ‘wellness’ movements. With 39% of shoppers now buying organic on a weekly basis, the organic trend shows no sign of slowing down; and nor does that of veganism, with research showing that there are now more vegans in the UK than ever before. Organic, vegan and great-tasting sweet treats, however, can be hard to come by, which is why retailers would do well to stock vegan, certified organic raw cacao brands, such as Ombar, in order to cater for these emerging needs.
The history of raw cacao
Despite its popularity in recent years, raw cacao has actually been used for centuries, for both medicinal and ceremonial purposes. Its Latin name ‘Theobroma’ literally means ‘Food of the Gods’, highlighting the spiritual status of this health food historically.
Non-raw cacao vs. raw cacao
We mostly experience cacao in its roasted format, as the key ingredient in most regular chocolate confectionary. Unlike roasted cacao chocolate – the health benefits of which are largely destroyed during the roasting process – raw cacao is bursting with nutritional properties. While non-raw chocolate is treated in a ‘conching’ process that uses high heat and removes many of the health benefits, raw cacao is treated at very low temperatures, ensuring almost all of the natural goodness is preserved. This is why the flavonoid content of raw chocolate can be six times more than that of standard chocolate.
What are flavonoids and flavonols?
Cacao contains flavonoids, which are antioxidant compounds said to protect against cell damage caused by free radicals. The flavonoids found in cacao are called flavonols, and research has found that these aid blood flow and help to lower blood pressure, while also promoting normal blood clotting function. Flavonols have also been said to help decrease the risk of heart disease, if consumed in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle and exercise.
More health benefits of raw cacao…
1. Raw cacao is rich in minerals, including:
- Iron: Iron is vital for making haemoglobin to carry oxygen around the body. It also plays a vital role in immunity, and for cognitive function (memory, thinking, reasoning, etc.) and, like magnesium, is also essential for converting food into energy and preventing fatigue.
- Magnesium: This miracle mineral is also commonly described as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’. This is because it plays a role in allowing our muscles to relax; and also because it may help us to cope with stress, moderating the body’s release of stress hormones such as adrenaline.
- Potassium: Our body uses up a lot of potassium every day; it helps to maintain the right fluid balance in the body; it keeps our blood pressure stable and, like magnesium, it’s required for muscle function and for nerve signals to travel around the body.
- Zinc: Zinc is vital for our immune system, bone health, healing, and for good hormone balance and fertility. Cacao can provide around 20% of our recommended amount of zinc in that one 35g chocolate bar.
2. Energy boosting qualities
Cacao contains a small amount of caffeine, as well as a compound called theobromine, which has a mild stimulating and energising effect. So having a few pieces of raw chocolate can be a great afternoon pick-me-up without the over-stimulation and jittery feeling you can get from coffee.
3. Mood-boosting qualities:
Cacao contains several active substances that may have a positive effect on our mood. One of these is phenylethylamine (PEA) – a natural compound that’s made in our brain. PEA is associated with good mood, and is said to be released in high amounts when we’re in love!
4. It’s good for skin!
Eating flavanol-rich chocolate has been found to help protect skin against sun damage, as well as improve circulation to the skin, increase skin hydration, and reduce roughness and scaling. Who would have thought that eating chocolate could help you keep your youthful looks (but choose raw for the greatest benefits)!