Comparing The Health Benefits Of Cacao Versus Cocoa Powder
Cacao and cocoa are terms sometimes used interchangeably. In most instances, cacao is used when referring to cacao beans, and cocoa is used to describe the powder made from ground cacao beans. Cacao beans are actually seeds taken from pod-like fruits. They are used to make chocolate products like cocoa. Cocoa powder is produced by grinding the cacao seeds after most of their fat content is removed. This fat is used to make cocoa butter. Cacao seeds also have to be dried, roasted, and fermented before they can be ground into cocoa powder. The word cacao is typically used by chocolatiers and makers of cacao bean products when the seeds are raw or if they have little or no processing. Cocoa powder is much sweeter than cacao, and it's better for baking. Cacao contains more antioxidants and nutrients because it doesn't require processing like cocoa powder does.
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Protection Against Free Radical Damage
The antioxidant effects of cacao beans provide protection against free radical damage because they're loaded with phenolic phytochemicals and flavonoids. Free radicals can cause oxidative damage when they are produced at a faster rate than the body's detoxification system can manage. Oxidative stress can also be caused by smoking, pollution, or excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays. Damage caused by oxidative stress can result in premature aging and chronic health conditions. The antioxidants contained in cacao and cocoa powder protect the cells from free radical damage. Cacao contains higher levels of antioxidants in comparison to cocoa powder because it's less processed.
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