People tend to think that all chocolate is the same. You will likely see the word “cocoa” on many chocolate products and assume it is just a shorter word for chocolate.
If you look at some of the fancier chocolate bars sold at the supermarket, you might see the word “cacao” on them instead.
Cacao looks very similar to the word “cocoa,” so you may feel compelled to assume it is the same thing too.
However, cacao and cocoa are two different forms of chocolate which are used in food products.
Even though they both come from the same evergreen tree called “Theobroma cacao,” they are not the same. The difference between the two relates to how they are processed.
Theobroma cacao is a cacao fruit tree which produces cacao fruits. Inside every piece of cacao fruit is about 40 to 50 cacao beans.
The way in which these beans are processed will determine whether they become cacao or cocoa.
Cacao is the purest form of chocolate on the market because it is the least modified from its original state.
Food processors will heat the cacao beans at low temperatures and then put them through a cold press to destroy any existing bacteria on them.
All the cacao butter and fat are removed from the cacao beans while the living enzymes stay in place. This keeps many of its vital nutrients and fibre in place.
Cocoa is the less pure form of chocolate. The cacao beans are roasted under very hot temperatures and then given an alkalized solution.
This preparation process makes the chocolate taste much better while reducing its enzyme and acidic content.
Because of this, the nutritional value of the chocolate is lost as well. It will not contain the amount of fibre and antioxidants that the pure cacao had.
If you eat 100% pure cacao, it will have a very bitter taste to it. That is why food manufacturers sell cacao food products that have different levels of sugar additives to them.
You might find chocolate bars or powders that are labelled as 100% cacao, 80% cacao, 70% cacao, 50% cacao, etc.
This percentage indicates how much of the chocolate is actually cacao. The lower the percentage, the sweeter it will taste because it will have less cacao in it. The rest will be less nutritional ingredients like sugar, milk, butter, etc.
Cocoa has a more chocolatey taste to it. You will often find that cocoa products are mixed with a higher quantity of milk, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sweeteners, and other fillers which give them a richer taste.
Anything labelled as milk chocolate is based from cocoa. Virtually all the standard chocolate desserts contain cocoa in them, such as cakes, cupcakes, brownies, and cookies.
Cacao is loaded with antioxidants, iron, calcium, magnesium, fibre, manganese, zinc, potassium, and copper.
Its flavonoids and phenolic phytochemicals will help eliminate the free radicals in the body which try to damage your cells.
Furthermore, cacao will enhance your mood, lower your blood pressure, boost cognitive function, enhance your heart health, and manage insulin levels.
If you were to consume cocoa powder without all the fillers and unhealthy ingredients, it would not be so bad.
Pure cocoa still retains many of the same nutritional properties of cacao. You will get a fair amount of fibre, antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, and other nutrients from cocoa.
Just be careful not to consume any cocoa products with additives because you will get a lot of sugar and fat in them as well.
It’s commonly assumed that cacao and cocoa are two ways to say the same thing. Even though they come from the same plant, they are not the same.
When it comes to choosing between cacao vs cocoa, their differences are important to know when figuring out which to use.