The Difference Between Cocoa and Cacao

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Cacao and cocoa look and sound the same but how do you tell one from the other? More importantly, what’s the nutritional benefits of these food items? Cocoa and cacao are both plant-based products. They literally came from one source: the cacao tree. However, they have slight differences in taste, cost, and nutrition. And today, we are listing down the differences of each one so you don’t mistake the one from the other:

Cacao VS Cocoa: What’s the Difference?

Cacao is the purest, raw form of chocolate harnessed from the cacao fruit tree. The tree bears cacao pods, which are cracked open to harvest the seeds. The seeds are then processed several ways to produce several cacao products.

On the other hand, cocoa is a term that refers to the heated form of cacao. This product is often in powder form. Although it’s processed and inferior to cacao – in terms of nutrition – cocoa has its share of health benefits too.

Cacao Products

Cacao products include cacao butter, cacao nibs, and cacao paste. Cacao butter is made from the fattiest part of the cacao fruit. It’s white in color and has an emollient texture. Cacao nibs are cacao beans chopped into bite pieces while cacao paste is heated cacao nibs.

Cacao Health Benefits

Unlike chocolate bars or cocoa, cacao is not processed extensively. This allows the product to retain much of its nutritional value. Cacao is packed with health-giving benefits such as antioxidants, complex carbs, protein, fiber, and vitamins. It is also the highest source of magnesium among all types of foods. Cacao keeps the heart healthy, the skin youthful looking and alleviates stress. It also lowers the blood pressure, preventing heart and arterial diseases.

Cocoa Products

During the processing period, the cacao is heated at high temperature. Despite this, cocoa retains its nutritional benefits, including antioxidants. Cocoa product comes in one form: powdered.  It’s often used as flavorings for baked goods, as additive to smoothies and milk and other treats.

Types of Cocoa

Regular Cocoa

As the name implies, regular cocoa goes through the regular processing of cacao. It may contain milk fats, oils or other additional ingredients. This product is rich in fiber, contains very little fat and modest amount of protein. Regular cocoa is often bitter in taste and acidic.

Dark Cocoa

Dark cocoa, also known as Dutch-processed cocoa – is cocoa powder mixed with alkalized solution. This gives the product a sweeter, richer taste and less acidity. Dark cocoa is ideal for baking.

Cocoa Health Benefits

Just like cacao, cocoa is packed with essential nutrients that keep the heart healthy. It also lowers blood pressure and alleviate stress.

Practical Uses

Cacao and cocoa can be used interchangeably in baking, raw treats, or additive to beverages. Although the processes between cacao and cocoa differ greatly, they taste similar. In addition, cacao and cocoa are packed with essential nutrients compared to chocolate bars. To reap all the essential benefits of cocoa or cacao, try to use almond milk instead of regular full cream milk.


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