The world would simply not be the same without cocoa (or cacao, as you may know it)! When you dig into a piece of decadent chocolate cake, enjoy a steaming cup of hot cocoa, or moisturize your skin with cocoa butter lotion, take a moment to appreciate the wonders of the cocoa bean.
Cocoa has a history that’s just as rich as its taste. It was first discovered and cultivated by the Olmecs of ancient Mexico, who first made drinking chocolate by crushing cocoa beans and adding water and spices. The Mayans and Aztecs continued cultivating cocoa and revered it as the food of the gods, even using it as currency. When explorer Hernando Cortez introduced “brown gold” to the Spanish court, cocoa was on its way to becoming the immensely popular product it is today.
Cocoa nibs are crunchy, flavorful, and packed with powerful nutrients and natural mood lifters. They’re perfect for mixing into trail mixes, smoothies, yogurt, or ice cream. It’s common for chocolate to contain between 10 and 70 percent cocoa, but these nibs are 100 percent cocoa — which means they carry 100 percent of the antioxidant benefits! The nibs also have 0 grams of sugar and 5 grams of fiber per serving.
Cocoa powder is extremely versatile; you can use it in all kinds of chocolatey baked goods or stir it into hot, sweetened milk to make hot cocoa. Cocoa contains more flavonoids, a type of antioxidant, than any other food. Antioxidants can protect against damage by free radicals. Furthermore, the phytochemicals in flavonoids may fight diabetes. Check out a few of our favorite recipes using cocoa powder (see right sidebar).
You’ll love breathing in the rich, delicate aroma of cocoa butter. To moisturize your skin, use it in its pure form or make your own lotion by slowly melting one part cocoa butter with three parts raw essential oil, such as coconut or chamomile oil. Alternatively, add a small spoonful to a steaming bath for a long, lavish soak that will invigorate your skin from head to toe. Cocoa butter also makes a wonderful butter substitute for vegans.
Cocoa beans may be the most concentrated source of antioxidants on the planet, and beans provide the most concentrated benefits. Crack open two or three for a burst of energy and antioxidants that will keep you going all day. According to researchers, regular cocoa intake may reduce blood pressure by thinning blood and relaxing blood vessels. Cocoa also stimulates the release of endorphins and serotonin, the two chemicals that naturally boost our happiness levels.
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