It’s hard to believe that anything even remotely related to chocolate could good for you. However, at the root of those familiar sweetened, processed chocolate bars and candy kisses is the cacao bean.

Bundled in pods that grow from the cacao tree, these exotic seeds contain over 300 nutritional compounds and are flush with antioxidants. Cacao trees require a consistently hot, humid climate to really flourish and generally grow within 10-20 degrees of the Equator. And while they are native to South and Central America, they are also cultivated in regions that include the Caribbean and west Africa. After the beans have been harvested, they go through a fermenting process that takes 2-8 days. This raw cacao is totally edible and many people love its bitter taste, while others mix it into drinks and desserts. At this stage, cacao still retains all of its healthful qualities – the antioxidants raise serotonin levels (which will boost your mood) and can improve cardiovascular health. Raw cacao also contains MAO inhibitors which suppress appetite. So if taken properly, it can even help you lose weight! (Chocolate for weight loss? Who knew?!)

To reap the naturally-grown benefits of cacao, all you need to do is look to one of the many powders or butters on the market, like Navitas Naturals Cacao Powder. Rich in iron and magnesium, it adds a nutrient-packed punch to all of my homemade cakes, brownies, and pancakes. I even spoon into the blender with bananas and soy milk for a thick, rich smoothie. If you’re not sure how to use it, just consult the Navitas recipe guide – they have an endless selection of recipes to inspire you, like this Incan Warrior Hot Chocolate which comes just in time for the cool weather. 


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