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Food of the Month: Cacao

Cacao. What is it and how do you pronounce it? Many people confuse it with cocoa powder. After all the two words differ only by one letter! Let's dive into what exactly Cacao is and how it's different from cocoa.

What is It?

Cacao, pronounced "Ka-Kow", is a superfood that dates back to the Mayans over 4,000 years ago. The scientific name for Cacao is Theobroma Cacao which is greek for "food of the gods." Cacao comes from Cacao trees that are native to the tropical regions of Central and South America. The trees produce two edible parts: the fruit and the seed or bean . The fruit is about the size and shape of a rugby ball and has crinkly brown red skin. The flesh of the cacao fruit is soft and has a zesty flavour. Inside, it contains cacao seeds or beans. The seeds are used to make chocolate by fermenting them, drying them, grinding them into a paste and finally adding sweetener. Cacao seeds can also be processed by cold-pressing un-roasted cacao beans. The process keeps the living enzymes in the cacao and removes the fat (cacao butter) reulting in raw cacao powder.  Cocoa powder, however,  is simply raw cacao that has been roasted at high temperatures. These high temperatures reduce enzymatic activity resulting in a less nutritious version of raw cacao.

Health Benefits:

Cacao contains more antioxidants than blueberries and large amounts of iron, calcium and magnesium. Additionally, cacao contains flavenoids which are beneficial to your cardiovascular health and a substance called theobromine which is a bitter alkaloid similar to caffeine that is known to boost mood and energy.

How to Store:

Store cacao powder in a dry place with little heat exposure making sure to seal the bag completely after each use.

How to Use:

Decadent Chocolate Pudding


3/4 cup date sugar
1/2 cup raw Cacao powder
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 cups plant milk of your choice (I like oat milk because it tastes a little sweeter)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


1) In a medium saucepan, whisk together all ingredients except vanilla until smooth.
2) Bring to a boil over medium-low heat, then simmer, stirring gently but constantly, until the pudding thickens.
3) Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
4) Pour the pudding into a serving bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
5) Refrigerate until very cold, at least 2 hours.


Recipe adapted from the book The Starch Solution by John McDougall, MD

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