Cacao has been used for centuries for its healing properties and as a delicious food source. Criolla cacao, in particular, is considered a rare and prized variety due to its unique flavor and nutritional benefits. It's no wonder that artisan chocolate bar companies are beginning to grow their own Criolla cacao to turn directly into bars. In this article, we'll explore the health benefits of Criolla cacao and why it's good for you.
What is Criolla Cacao?
Criolla cacao is a type of cacao that is considered to be the purest and most original variety of cacao. It's grown in Central and South America and is believed to have originated in the Amazon Basin. Criolla cacao has a unique flavor profile that is characterized by its fruity and floral notes, as well as its mild bitterness.
One of the reasons why Criolla cacao is so prized is that it makes up only about 1% of the world's cacao production. This is due to the fact that Criolla cacao is more susceptible to disease and pests, and therefore requires more care and attention to grow.
Health Benefits of Criolla Cacao
- Rich in Antioxidants
Criolla cacao is rich in antioxidants, which are compounds that help protect your body against damage from free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to the development of chronic diseases. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals and reduce their harmful effects.
- May Improve Heart Health
Studies have shown that consuming cacao may have a positive effect on heart health. This is because cacao is rich in flavonoids, which are compounds that have been shown to reduce inflammation and improve blood flow. This can help lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- May Enhance Mood and Cognitive Function
Cacao contains compounds that may enhance mood and cognitive function. One of these compounds is phenylethylamine (PEA), which is a natural stimulant that can help improve mood and increase alertness. Cacao also contains caffeine and theobromine, which are stimulants that can improve cognitive function.
- May Lower Blood Pressure
Consuming cacao may help lower blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. This is because cacao contains flavonoids, which have been shown to improve blood flow and lower blood pressure.
- May Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is a normal immune response that helps protect your body against infection and injury. However, chronic inflammation can contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Cacao contains flavonoids that have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body.
How to Incorporate Criolla Cacao into Your Diet
- Enjoy a piece of artisan chocolate
One of the easiest ways to incorporate Criolla cacao into your diet is to enjoy a piece of artisan chocolate. Look for chocolate bars that use Criolla cacao as their main ingredient.
- Add cacao powder to your smoothies
You can also add cacao powder to your smoothies to give them a rich, chocolatey flavor. Cacao powder is also rich in antioxidants and can help improve heart health.
- Make a hot chocolate drink
Another way to enjoy the health benefits of Criolla cacao is to make a hot chocolate drink. Use a high-quality cocoa powder or chocolate bar to make a rich, delicious hot chocolate that is also good for you.
- Anti-inflammatory properties
Chronic inflammation can contribute to a range of health issues, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Some research suggests that the flavonoids in cocoa may have anti-inflammatory properties that could help reduce inflammation in the body.
One study found that a daily serving of flavanol-rich cocoa significantly decreased markers of inflammation in overweight adults. Another study showed that consuming cocoa flavanols for 12 weeks reduced inflammation in people with type 2 diabetes.
- Improved brain function
Cocoa contains compounds that can improve brain function and cognitive performance. The flavonoids in cocoa can increase blood flow to the brain, which may improve brain function.
Research has shown that cocoa flavanols can improve cognitive performance, especially in older adults. In one study, older adults who consumed high flavanol cocoa for eight weeks showed significant improvements in cognitive function compared to those who consumed low flavanol cocoa.
Additionally, cocoa flavanols can improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression. One study found that people who consumed high flavanol cocoa for four weeks reported reduced feelings of depression and improved mood compared to those who consumed low flavanol cocoa.
- Improved heart health
The flavonoids in cocoa may also have positive effects on heart health. Some studies suggest that consuming cocoa can improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
One study found that consuming cocoa flavanols improved blood flow and reduced blood pressure in healthy adults. Another study showed that regular cocoa consumption was associated with a lower risk of heart disease in women.
- Potential cancer-fighting properties
Some studies suggest that the flavonoids in cocoa may have anti-cancer properties. The compounds in cocoa have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in test-tube studies, and some animal studies have suggested that cocoa consumption may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.
While more research is needed to confirm the cancer-fighting properties of cocoa, these early findings are promising.
Criolla cacao is a rare and highly sought-after variety of cacao that offers numerous health benefits. The flavonoids and other compounds in criolla cacao may help reduce inflammation, improve brain function, and promote heart health, among other benefits.
If you're looking for a delicious and nutritious way to incorporate criolla cacao into your diet, artisan chocolate bars made from high-quality criolla cacao are a great option. By choosing chocolate made from criolla cacao, you can indulge in a sweet treat while reaping the many health benefits this special cacao variety has to offer.