Chocolate, health hacks, and beauty boosters- 3 of my favorite things! (Ok guilty, I have a lot of favorite things). Nevertheless, Raw Cacao represents 3 of my faves in 1, so I knew that sooner or later it would become its own blog post.
One of the secret ingredients that I add to almost ALL of my dark colored smoothies is cacao nibs; it doesn’t change the color, but it adds so much nutrition.
Cacao is tiny bits of real chocolate that add tons of beauty & health benefits to your life. they taste kind of like baby espresso beans and deliver a tasty chocolate punch (each nib is about one calorie).
I’ll share all the deets below.
So my gf, Olenko, actually started her own raw chocolate biz, and she sent me the most beautiful handmade chocolate (see below! w/edible glitter & everything), which is what inspired this blog post to begin with.
Raw chocolate something that I eat weekly (if not daily), AND I wanted to shout out Olenko and her local biz (she ships nationally from NYC)! She creates all of the chocolate by hand using organic, vegan, and all natural ingredients (even her food dyes are 100% plants). Ps – her unicorn truffles are my fave; they’re chewy, pretty, and so delish.
OK, so are you ready to dive into a world of REAL chocolate?
Let’s nerd out for a sec.
Cacao: a Brief History
Cocao is an ancient superfood that can be traced back to South America. It was first domesticated by prominent indigenous civilizations such as the Aztecs and Mayans, and was symbolically much more sacred than any other crop they harvested. Cacao beverages were shared during religious ceremonies, raw cacao was used as a currency in trade, it was gifted to warriors after successful battles, and it was even served at royal feasts.
Europeans discovered the magic of the local cacao beans and quickly brought them back to Europe.
Cacao by itself is pretty bitter, but the Spanish ingeniously thought to add sugar and spices to sweeten it up and voilà! The hot cocoa beverage we all know and love today, was born.
At first cacao was an exclusive commodity, available only to the European elite.
…. then, much to the aristocrat’s dismay the Industrial Revolution came along. Commercialized the product, added cacao butter to create the first chocolate bar, and bam. Chocolate became a staple of the masses.
I for one, feel so lucky to have been born in this age because hello? Could you image a life without chocolate? Honestly try to picture that. When I do, it’s a grim existence.
Let’s back up though. This blog isn’t about chocolate, per se. It’s about RAW CACAO, and the million+ reasons why you need it in your life.
Raw Cacao (Powder or Nibs) vs. Cocoa Powder
Just to clarify, Cacao and cocoa powder are NOT (exactly) the same things, although cocoa powder comes from cacao. Cocoa powder is roasted (cooked) cacao, which gives it that familiar chocolatey flavor, and it’s typically the stuff you bake foods with or find in pre-made mixes. It has less nutritional value (although still quite a bit!) than raw cacao. There is a time and place for both, in my opinion, but this post is all about raw cacao, which is your new beauty bestie (+ we will talk about it’s health benefits too).
So where does it come from exactly?
Both cocoa powder and raw cacao come from cacao beans- or rather seeds- from the Theobroma cacao tree.
This plant produces large, pod-like fruits, each containing 20–60 beans surrounded by a sticky, sweet-tart white pulp. The contents of the beans provide the basis for chocolate. When you go to the grocery store and see “Raw Cacao,” it essentially means the most natural, least processed form of cacao in either powder or nib form. Cocoa powder sometimes has added sugar, but not always, and it is typically fat-free.
Raw cacao nibs kind of taste kind of like baby espresso beans and deliver a tasty chocolate punch (each nib is about 1 calorie btw).
Let’s breakdown the nutrition.
Raw Cacao & Health
Antioxidants – antioxidants galore!! It is one of the highest antioxidants in the world.
Helps w/Sugar Cravings – high in Chromium, which helps balance blood sugar and ultimately sugar cravings
Reduces Inflammation– who doesn’t want that? Due to cacao’s Flavonoids it may help reduce inflammation in the bod. Hell yes, I want all the anti inflammatory good juju I can get.
Reduces Risk of Heart Disease– contains potassium, which has been shown to decrease risk of heart disease by reducing lower body inflammation and stress on cells.
Mood booster – combats mood swings by boosting serotonin (the happy chem!)
Aphrodisiac – need I say more?
Energy boost – raw chocolate does contain a little caffeine, which is great for mornings if you didn’t get the best nights sleep + high levels of naturally occurring magnesium helps to balance your Mag levels as they may be low after a night of not resting well.
You can dive deep into the studies here if ya want.
Raw Cacao & Beauty
Let’s move along & talk about raw cacao’s beauty benefits and skin care.
Beauty itself starts within, as we know by now, and I mean that in the most scientific way possible.
Beauty is rooted in health. The brightness and clarity of your skin, the luster of your hair, the strength of your nails, all depend on the quality of your health.
If you want a radiant, glowing complexion, if you want to be bloat-free, if you want to show up as your most gorgeous self, you’ve got to prioritize your health, periodt.
Bright, Clear Skin
Remember those flavonoids we talked about? How they improve blood flow? Increased circulation helps promote a clear and bright complexion, because blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to your skin’s cells. In addition to providing oxygen, blood flow also helps carry away waste products, including free radicals.
Healthy circulation is essential for healthy skin.
The magnesium in cacao also plays a big role. Elle Magazine explains, “when you’re lacking the miracle mineral [magnesium] in your diet, the levels of fatty acid on the surface of the skin and collagen levels – which keep things bouncy and moisturized – will decrease. Your face will end up dryer, uneven in tone and prone to wrinkles.
Bringing those levels back up will in turn help to bring the life and light back to lackluster skin. Magnesium can also help to protect your skin from external damage, as it regulates cellular regeneration and repair, increasing the recovery when skin is disturbed and strength when it’s under attack.”
One word: Antioxidants. Or shall I say a fuckton of antioxidants; which equals anti-aging + epic skin.
Antioxidants protect your skin’s cells from premature destruction (hell yes)!
You can even apply it topically. When applied directly to your skin, all of the antioxidants from cacao- which include polyphenols, procyanidin, and flavonoids- get to work on the surface. This makes cacao great for anti-aging, skincare, and protection against environmental pollutants.
Luxury skin care brands are now creating masks and creams containing this potent ingredient.
Strong, Healthy Hair
I always talk to my hair salon clients about the health of their hair, as they are all hair extension clients, and you honestly can’t have fabulous hair (even if you’re wearing extensions) if your hair is in poor condition to start with.
It all starts from within.
Heathy hair starts with a healthy scalp, and a healthy scalp starts with a healthy body (and mind, but I’ll leave that for a hair loss post).
To start with, your hair needs protein and minerals to grow. In fact, your hair follicles are made mostly of protein. If your diet lacks adequate protein, it can lead to hair loss.
Grab a handful of raw cacao daily for 7 grams of protein in just 2 tbs!
AND also minerals; in particularly, sulfur. Sulfur, which is abundant in healthy chocolate, is ESSENTIAL for heathy hair. Eating sulfur-rich foods like cocoa, onions, nuts, legumes, cruciferous veggies…to name a few, are so so so important.
There is a component in cacao called theobromide that studies show could potentially be effective at preventing cavities and protecting against tooth decay (some say maybe even more than fluoride). Pretty cool huh? These compounds have antibacterial agents that fight against plaque, which may lessen the chances of tooth decay.
So if you have teeth concerns (I do, because of Sjogren’s), nibble on some nibs in between meals.
My Favorite Ways to Eat/Drink/Use Raw Cacao
The easiest thing to do is add a spoonful of raw cacao to your otherwise ready made meals (I like Terrasoul brand). You can add it to your fave smoothie, sprinkle it on oatmeal, or even stir it into your coffee.
- You can add it to your Sexy Skinny Coffee
- Have some tea and a fancy Goodio Chocolate Bar (my fave is blueberry)
- Whip it up in this Chocolate antioxidant rich smoothie
- I LOVE drinking my YL Cacao Oolong Tea in the AM (it keeps you regular if you know what I mean)
- Chocolate Zucchini Muffins (TDF + refined sugar free)
- Make a superfood dip w/fresh strawberries (+ it’s sexy)
- Go DIY and make Cacao Face Masks. Yep, it’s a thing! 3 BONUS RECIPES below!
And if you are a NO to DIY, Check out these chic facial creams & masks below infused w/rich chocolate.
3 Cacao Face Mask Recipes:
Because it’s fun to mix it up! and also some experimenting may be necessary, to what works for your unique skin care needs.
– Cacao & Honey Face Mask: Oily / Acne Prone Skin Care
Cacao and honey possess antioxidant properties that kill the acne-causing bacteria without drying your skin. They also keep your skin soft and supple.
- 1 tbs cacao powder
- 1 pinch cinnamon
- 1 tbs honey
Directions: Combine the ingredients to make a paste. If the paste is too thick, add more honey. Apply the paste to your neck for 20-30 minutes then wash off. You can do this up to 2x/ week!
– Cacao & Green Tea Anti Aging Face Mask
- 1/2 cup cacao powder
- 2 green tea bags
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs yogurt
- 1 tbs honey
Directions: Boil the green tea bag and extract the liquid. Allow it too cool. Add all of the ingredients to the green tea extract and mix well. Apply the mask to your face and neck, and leave it to dry. Wash off. You can do this once or twice / week!
– Hydrating Cacao Face Mask
- 1/2 cup cacao powder
- 1 tbs olive oil
Directions: Mix ingredients together in a bowl. Apply evenly to your face and neck. Let it dry for 20 minutes. Wash off with lukewarm water. You can do this 2x/ week!
Cacao is a wonderful, mystical, miraculous gift from nature, and it’s sexy and healthy as fuck.
It’s decadent, divine, delicious, and nutritious.
Whether you drink it down with your daily smoothie, participate in new age-y cacao ceremonies, or slather it all over your skin, it deserves its rightful place in your life, and of course a rightful place on your skin (or in your skincare mini fridge).
Also fruity and raw chocolate heaven over on Olenko’s IG page. Send her a DM & Buy some chocs, you will be pleased.