Most people love chocolate. We love its flavor, its aroma, its texture. In fact, we love it so much that over a billion people eat chocolate every day. Surprisingly, however, many of us don’t realize that at the heart of chocolate is a little bean called cacao.
Cacao comes from a tree whose origins date back thousands of years to the ancient peoples of Mesoamerica. These ancient cultures used the cacao bean as the main ingredient in a bitter, health-promoting beverage called xocoatl. This beverage was revered for its nourishing qualities and ability to enhance energy and stamina for long periods of time. This xocoatl wasn’t just a favorite food for the ancient Mesoamericans—it also played an important role in their religions, social interactions and economies.
What is so special about cacao? This small bean possesses some impressive health-promoting properties that are increasingly supported by science. Most notable is its antioxidant content. Cacao contains potent compounds such as flavonols, polyphenols and procyanidins that exert unique properties. Cacao is also rich in several B vitamins, minerals such as copper, magnesium and zinc, amino acids and mood-boosting chemicals like phenylethylamine (PEA) and theobromine.
This nutritional firepower translates to numerous health benefits. In fact, science now tells us that cacao and dark, healthy chocolate can support the health of most of the body’s major systems. Some of these human health benefits include: