Cacao powder has become increasingly popular in recent years as more people discover its many health benefits.
But what exactly is cacao powder, and what nutrition does it provide?
What is Cacao Powder?
Cacao powder is made by cold-pressing raw, unroasted cacao beans to separate the fat (cacao butter) from the solids. What's left is a powder that contains high concentrations of nutrients and health-promoting compounds.
Unlike cocoa powder which is roasted at high temperatures, cacao powder is raw and subjected to lower temperatures. This helps preserve the natural enzymes and antioxidants found in the cacao bean.
Key Nutrients in Cacao Powder
Here are some of the key nutrients found in cacao powder:
Cacao powder is very high in fiber, containing around 8-10 grams per ounce (28 grams). The fiber is mostly insoluble, which helps promote regularity and overall colon health.
With 3-4 grams of protein per ounce, cacao is one of the richest plant-based sources of protein. It contains all 9 essential amino acids needed for building muscles and tissues.
Although much of the fat is removed to make cacao powder, it still provides 1-2 grams of fat per ounce. These are mostly heart-healthy fats like monounsaturated and saturated fats.
Cacao is abundant in minerals like magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, and potassium. An ounce may contain over 100 mg of magnesium, helping meet your daily nutrient needs.
One of the standout compounds in cacao are flavonoids like epicatechin. These potent antioxidants combat free radicals and offer anti-inflammatory effects.
Key Takeaway: Cacao powder provides an impressive array of nutrients including fiber, protein, healthy fats, minerals, and antioxidants like flavonoids.
Cacao Powder Nutrition Facts
Now let’s take a detailed look at the nutrition facts for cacao powder. The amounts can vary between brands, but here is the typical nutritional profile per 1 ounce (28 grams) serving:
- Calories: 110
- Fat: 2g
- Carbs: 12g
- Fiber: 8g
- Protein: 4g
- Magnesium: 107mg
- Calcium: 33mg
- Iron: 3mg
- Potassium: 466mg
- Manganese: 0.6mg
As you can see, cacao powder packs significant amounts of fiber, minerals, protein and antioxidants into a low-calorie serving.
Let’s explore some of the top vitamins and minerals found in cacao powder:
One of the biggest nutritional benefits of cacao is its high magnesium content. Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in over 300 enzyme reactions in the body. An ounce of cacao powder delivers 27% of your recommended daily intake.
Research shows magnesium can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and promote restful sleep. Cacao is one of the richest dietary sources of magnesium.
With 8 grams fiber per ounce, cacao powder can help normalize bowel movements and promote gut health. The insoluble fiber in cacao acts as a prebiotic to feed healthy bacteria in your intestines.
Getting adequate fiber also helps lower cholesterol, control blood sugar, and promote weight loss.
Cacao is also high in iron, providing about 17% of your RDI per ounce. Iron carries oxygen to all your cells and helps prevent anemia.
An ounce of cacao powder contains potassium, an important electrolyte for nerve signaling, fluid balance, and muscle contractions. Most people don't get enough potassium which can increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
Although not as high in calcium as some other foods, cacao still provides a decent amount with 33 mg per ounce. Calcium is essential for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth.
Key Takeaway: Cacao powder is one of the best sources of magnesium and also supplies significant amounts of fiber, iron, potassium and calcium.
Health Benefits of Cacao Powder
Aside from its stellar nutritional profile, cacao powder has been linked to several health benefits:
Improves Heart Health
The flavonoids in cacao are powerful antioxidants that help protect the heart and cardiovascular system. Human studies show that eating cacao can improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, and reduce LDL oxidation and inflammation.
Supports Brain Function
Cacao flavanols increase blood flow to the brain, which can enhance cognitive function. Studies demonstrate that cacao supplements may improve memory, learning, focus and alertness.
Regulates Blood Sugar
The fiber, fat and antioxidants in cacao powder help moderate blood sugar spikes after meals. One review found that cocoa supplements significantly decreased fasting blood sugar levels.
Promotes Skin Health
Cocoa flavanols improve skin elasticity and hydration by increasing blood flow and oxygenation to the skin. Applying cacao powder masks or creams can also reduce wrinkles and improve overall skin tone.
Cacao raises serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain, which are associated with improved mood and decreased depression. Theobromine in cacao also provides mild stimulant effects.
Overall, research confirms that daily intake of cacao flavanols and antioxidants offers a wide range of health benefits, from heart and brain health to younger looking skin.
Comparing Cocoa vs Cacao Powder
Cocoa and cacao powders are derived from the same cacao bean, but there are some key differences:
- Processing: Cocoa powder undergoes more processing at higher temperatures which destroys nutrients. Cacao powder is less processed.
- Taste: Cocoa powder tends to be more bitter while cacao is richer tasting with some natural sweetness.
- Color: Cocoa powder is darker in color while cacao powder is lighter with a reddish hue.
- Nutrition: Cacao powder has higher concentrations of antioxidants, minerals and nutrients compared to cocoa.
While both offer benefits, cacao powder is less processed and provides more nutrition per serving. But cocoa powder can still be a healthy addition to smoothies, baked goods, and drinks when used in moderation.
How to Use Cacao Powder
Here are some simple ways to add cacao powder into your diet:
- Add 1-2 tablespoons into smoothies, protein shakes or yogurt
- Mix into oatmeal, chia pudding or overnight oats
- Make homemade chocolate milk or hot cocoa
- Use in place of cocoa powder in baked goods like cookies, cakes, muffins
- Combine with nuts and dried fruit for homemade energy balls
- Mix with nut butter and coconut oil for a healthy chocolate spread
- Sprinkle on fruit for an antioxidant-rich dessert
Cacao powder has a rich chocolate taste, so you only need a small amount to add flavor. It mixes well into batters, drinks, desserts, and more.
Cacao Powder FAQs
Is cacao powder healthy?
Yes, cacao powder is incredibly healthy and nutritious. It provides protein, fiber, minerals, antioxidants and other bioactive compounds linked to many health benefits.
Is cacao powder keto-friendly?
Cacao powder is very low in carbs and sugars, making it an excellent keto-friendly food. The high fat and fiber content helps keep you feeling full while the flavonoids provide potent antioxidants.
Does cacao powder have caffeine?
Cacao does contain a small amount of caffeine, approximately 20-40mg per ounce. This is much less than coffee but enough to provide a mild energy boost.
Can I use cacao powder every day?
Yes, enjoying cacao powder daily can provide a range of health benefits thanks to its stellar nutritional profile and antioxidants. Aim for 1-2 tablespoons per day.
Is cacao powder gluten free?
Pure cacao powder without any additives is naturally gluten free. But always check labels since some brands may contain barley or other gluten sources.
Cacao powder offers an impressive array of nutrition - all for a low amount of calories per serving. It provides ample fiber, magnesium, antioxidants, and other nutrients that offer benefits for heart and brain health, blood sugar regulation, mood and more.
Thanks to its rich chocolatey taste, cacao powder is easy to incorporate into smoothies, baked goods, overnight oats, energy balls, hot cocoa, and many recipes. Aim for 1-2 tablespoons per day to reap the unique nutritional benefits of cacao.
Compared to regular cocoa powder, cacao powder is less processed and retains more nutrients as well as bolder chocolate flavor. While both offer benefits, cacao powder is the clear winner when you want maximum nutrition in every serving.