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All about CACAO

It’s chocolate week! Here at nom, we are a big fan of using cacao in our organic oat bars: cacao nibs in our Original bars and cacao powder in our Cacao & Raspberry bars. It’s an ingredient that’s great for its signature chocolatey flavour and has added health benefits too!

So, what is cacao and how does it differ from cocoa? To understand what cacao is, it’s useful to know how it’s produced:

All cacao products derive from cacao beans, which are ripened within their pods. The beans are then removed ready for fermentation, following which they are dried in the sun.

The next step is where cocoa and cacao differ – if the beans are roasted, then the products are classed as cocoa. This roasting reduces the total polyphenol content of the cocoa, meaning raw, unroasted cacao packs more of a nutritional punch.

Once the beans are dried, the husk is removed, and the remaining bean can be used to make cacao nibs. These nibs are simply small pieces of the bean without any further processing having taken place.

However, this is not the only possible fate for the dried cacao beans – they can also by pressed to extract the cacao butter. The solids that remain can then be ground into cacao powder. Cacao nibs are a more nutritionally complete product as they contain both the fats and the solids present in the cacao bean.

The cacao butter that is removed by pressing is the fat present in the cacao bean. Although fats are important in moderation, the high levels found in more commercial chocolate (where recipes use mainly cocoa butter with minimal cocoa solids) give less health benefits.

This leaves the cacao solids, which are ground to make cacao powder, and have the characteristic chocolate flavour. They are high in polyphenols such as flavonoids, which are thought to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health, and high in fibre, which slows the absorption of sugar into the blood, meaning slower energy release.

At nom we value using high quality, health boosting ingredients. This is why we use cacao powder in our Cacao & Raspberry bar for its intense chocolatey flavour, and the much milder taste of cacao nibs allows us to boost the nutritional content of our Original bar. Head over to our Stockists page to find your nearest nom bars!

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