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What is the Difference between Chocolate and Cacao, or is it Cocoa?

What is the Difference between Chocolate and Cacao, or is it Cocoa?

In Dutch we have an expression, I can’t make chocolate out of it, which basically means I don’t get it. Well, I couldn’t make chocolate out of the difference between chocolate and cacao. And then I discovered there is also cocoa. Time for some investigation!

Women and chocolate are an infamous combination. It’s our favorite comfort food. And given all the rave articles in the women’s magazines in recent years, most of us no longer feel guilty about being addicted to chocolate.

In recent years, the properties of chocolate have also been scientifically researched. Sometimes it is said that you should eat more chocolate because of all the benefits. What are those benefits?

Are the benefits actually about chocolate?

  • Cacao, the flavor-determining raw material of chocolate, raw and the least processed of this list. Contains more nutrients than cocoa. Pure cacao has a bitter taste. It’s considered one of the superfoods.
  • Cocoa, base substances are added to cacao and then heated. This is called alkalization and can be at the expense of nutrients. Trans fats are also formed by heating at a high temperature.
  • Dark chocolate, according to EU standards, dark chocolate must contain a minimum of 35% cocoa (both cocoa powder and cocoa butter). The higher the percentage the better. There is chocolate with 70%, 80%, 90% cocoa. In addition, chocolate contains sugar or sweeteners.
  • Milk chocolate, has a minimum of 25% cocoa and 14% dry milk components.
  • White chocolate, does not contain cocoa powder, but cocoa butter.
  • Ruby chocolate, has a pink color and a berry flavor. Both the color and the taste come from cocoa beans and not from added colors or flavors. The production method is unknown, so ruby chocolate is not considered chocolate by the FDA.

Healthy claims?

Ruby chocolate with almonds and pistachios

In articles on the internet about research the words chocolate and cocoa are often used interchangeably. Sometimes it means raw cocoa powder, sometimes it actually means a bar of chocolate. It is therefore advisable to pay attention.

Chocolate bars are high in saturated fat. Both the fat content and the sugar content vary a lot, which can be found out by looking at the nutrient list.

It’s beneficial to eat chocolate

  • According to Japanese research, our ability to concentrate gets a boost if we eat a piece of black chocolate (70% or more) every day;
  • It seems that the taste of chocolate produces endorphins in our body. Endorphins cause a feeling of euphoria and suppress pain;
  • Chocolate contains lecithin which has a beneficial effect on the cholesterol levels in the blood;
  • There are indications that dark chocolate lowers blood pressure.

The good properties of cacao

  • Polyphenols, a polyphenol is an antioxidant that inhibits inflammation, protects against free radicals and slows down the combustion within body cells;
  • Lot of magnesium, which has a positive influence on our energy metabolism, nerve impulse transfer and muscle functionality and helps sleeping better;
  • Phenylethylamine, a substance that would make you feel in love and thus act as a mild antidepressant;
  • Fibers;
  • Caffeine, which can give you energy;
  • Cacao beans have flavonoids that have a protective effect against cardiovascular disease.

We’d better not eat chocolate

Difference between chocolate and cacao: chocolate contains a lot of sugar!
  • Milk chocolate and white chocolate in particular contain a lot of sugar. We quickly gain weight from a surplus of sugars. Sugar is bad for our teeth;
  • Especially white chocolate – but milk chocolate as well – contains large amounts of cocoa butter (theobromine oil). Cocoa butter contains both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, but is in any case extremely fat;
  • Chocolate consists of milk, sugar and fat. In certain formulations this combination is poorly digestible;
  • Fat chocolate is very high in calories. Some types of chocolate contain up to 600 calories per 100 grams. Chocolate should be eaten in moderation;
  • Excessive consumption can have laxative effects;
  • Chocolate is slightly addictive due to the combination of caffeine, theobromine, anandamide, tryptophan, theophylline, octopamine, ethylamine and isobutylamine;
  • Chocolate can have a negative effect on rheumatism.

The bad properties of cacao

  • Tannins, bind to iron and proteins, at the expense of iron absorption, protein availability and certain beneficial bacteria in the human body, including the intestinal flora. In addition, tannin discolors the teeth;
  • Oxalic acid binds to calcium; because of this, calcium is poorly absorbed by our body. So the body is robbed of minerals;
  • Theobromine, a substance that in large quantities (and indirectly) can damage DNA and is toxic to pets (don’t feed chocolate to your dog or cat);
  • Cocoa is very stressful for the liver.
Sleep promoting or sleep depriving?

Some words about sleep

Chocolate can keep you awake because of the caffeine, despite the fact chocolate contains magnesium. A milk chocolate bar consists of less cocoa than a dark one.

However, milk chocolate is better for your sleep than dark chocolate. Like dark chocolate, milk chocolate also contains magnesium, but milk chocolate contains only half the amount of caffeine.

Final words

I thought it was difficult to separate fact and fabrication. I tried my best to write an objective article, but please tell me if I made a mistake.

Cacao trees grow in Latin and South America. The cacao farmers are often treated poorly, as a lot of third world farmers are. Companies like Fair Trade and Your Super make sure the farmers get a decent price.

And – as some of you already know – I am a huge advocate of ecological, sustainable produce. This also applies to cacao.

Two delicious recipes

Cacao balls

This recipe is from Your Super with a personal touch of Tom, my husband, and is great as an in-between snack:

Grind 50 g almonds, add 50 g pit free dates and 2 tsp. of Chocolate Lover and blend everything. Make small balls and roll them through coconut scraps. It’s easier to blend everything when you first soften the dates in hot water for 10 minutes.

Brownie cake

This is a sugar free, lactose free, gluten free and fat free delight:

  • 250 grams of pit free dates
  • 250 milliliter of unsweetened apple compote
  • 75 grams of cocoa powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 150 grams of almond flour
  • 150 grams of hazelnuts
  • 150 grams of extra pure chocolate
Tom's brownie cake
  1. Soak the dates for 10 minutes in a bowl with hot water. Put the soaked dates together with the apple compote in the blender and grind this mixture as fine as possible.
  2. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees C.
  3. Dress a baking tin of 15 by 25 cm with baking paper.
  4. Pour the mixture in a batter bowl and mix it with the cocoa-powder. Next mix the eggs through and when these have been blended well, add the almond flour and mix until you have a juicy dough.
  5. Grind the hazelnuts crude and set 50 grams aside. Mix 100 grams through the dough. Pour the brownie dough in the baking tin. Put the tin in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, but cover the cake after 25 minutes with aluminum foil, to prevent the top layer from getting too dark.
  6. See to it that the cake cools down well. Melt the extra pure chocolate ‘au bain-marie’, and pour this over the cake, smooth out the chocolate and distribute the remaining hazelnuts over the melted chocolate. Let the extra pure chocolate firm up before cutting the cake.
  7. The brownie cake can be kept in a well closed container for a maximum of five days, or freeze it.

Enjoy!

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16 thoughts on “What is the Difference between Chocolate and Cacao, or is it Cocoa?”

  1. I’ve had no idea that cacao and cocoa are two different things. I always thought the difference is in a language. Like color and colour. Two same things but written differently. In any case, I just wanted to say thanks for sharing an awesome post. I like dark chocolate. Other kinds like milk, white, etc., don’t attract me too much because they are more sugar and less chocolate. After reading all these good things about cacao, I’ll go to the market right now and get me some dark chocolate! Thanks! 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Ivan, don’t worry, I had the same thought about cacao and cocoa. And I guess it’s used both ways without taking any meaning into account. That’s the beauty of writing about something more in-depth, we discover all kinds of stuff we never knew before. 🙂
      How did your chocolate taste?

      Reply
  2. Hi Hannie,

    Well I never – I feel a little silly now.

    I always thought that whenever someone mentioned cacao, they had either misspelt cocoa, or didn’t know what they were talking about, LOL. I stand corrected.

    This was an extremely fascinating read for me, as I for the majority of my life have been a chocolate lover.

    However, milk chocolate was always my thing, and even though I have often read of the health benefits of dark chocolate, especially the higher percentage varieties, I never quite got the same feeling from it.

    With that said, I have always typically come out in spots whenever I eat chocolate, although that could be because of the quantities in which I consumed it (why have one chocolate bar when you can have 3?).

    It wasn’t until last year that I finally gave up all dairy products completely and this included my beloved chocolate.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still sneak the occasional chocolate chip cookie or a chocolate mousse dessert, but this is only once in a very long while.

    So, as you can probably guess I’m now off out to get the ingredients to make my very own brownie cake.

    Thanks for the recipe.

    Partha

    Reply
    • Oh, Partha, let us know what you think of the recipe! Tom changes some of the ingredients at times which is great. But the recipe is marvelous if you don’t want to have anything with milk.

      As a teenager I also had a lot of spots on my face and was forbidden to eat chocolate. Or fries. LOL, I thought it was on purpose to punish teenagers for still being young. 🙂

      Oh, and I discovered a chocolate mousse recipe without milk. We have to try it first, but if it works out, I’ll let you know.

      Reply
      • I will let you know Hannie.

        Funnily enough I have previously made the most basic of chocolate mousse receipes when I was younger (although this did involve milk chocolate).

        In fact, it only had two ingredients – egg whites whipped up and melted chocloate.

        I love the texture of mousse and always have done, so YES PLEASE… I’d love to know more.

        Partha

        Reply
        • OK Partha, as soon as we have played the guinea pigs, I’ll let you know. It involves some ingredients we didn’t have yet in the house, so that’s why we haven’t made it yet. (Nice, the ‘we’ don’t you think? As if I ever do anything in the kitchen, ROFLOL)

          Reply
  3. Hannie,

    I’m going to pretend I didn’t read any references to chocolate being unhealthy. Seriously, 2020 has been bad enough without that. I’m going to have to try that Brownie Cake recipe though, it sounded fantastic even without the sugar.

    Thanks for another great article,
    Sean

    Reply
    • You’re right, Sean, chocolate can be real comfort food. But there are a lot of extra Corona kilos here and there that can’t be blamed to the chocolate but to the added sugar. I am curious what you think of the Brownie cake. We think it is indeed fantastic, but tastes differ. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Hi Hannie,
    This is a great article! I am a real chocolate lover. The darker the chocolate the better I like it. I usually eat 70% Cocoa. I am aware of the health benefits of dark chocolate but I did not know the difference between Cacao and Cocoa. Very interesting, indeed!
    Strangely enough, dark chocolate does not keep me awake at night, no matter how much I have before bedtime.
    I think I will make your Brownie Cake recipe, which sounds and looks delicious!
    Frank

    Reply
    • Hi Frank, lucky you to still be able to sleep despite eating chocolate so late! 70% Cocoa is delicious, I totally agree with you. And I am so happy that I seem to be not the only one to value the Brownie cake 😀

      Reply
  5. Hi Hannie!
    Thanks for writing this article! I love chocolate of all kinds, but I knew that the dark chocolate is better for our health. So, now I’m trying to eat dark chocolate instead of milk or white. I didn’t know about the cocoa at all, but only knew cacao:) Especial thanks for sharing these recipies, I will try to cook the brownie cake! It seems very tasty!!!
    Alex

    Reply
    • My guilty pleasure is butterscotch chocolate. Do you know that one, Alex? It’s a good thing I can’t buy it over here in Spain, LOL.
      Yes, the brownie cake is a hit. I am glad I posted it, as it eems to resonate with a lot of people. Our neighbors are also fan by now. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Hi Hannie, congratulations to you in producing this excellent article. I am unfortunately a chocoholic myself preferring milk chocolate to the more healthier version of dark! I often dread Easter and Christmas holidays receiving loads of chocolate products from family members who don’t care about my waistline! I know that health wise I would be better off getting good quality dark chocolate but I don’t enjoy the bitter taste from it. Best regards. Jim

    Reply
    • Well, Jim, if you can’t stand dark chocolate, don’t eat it. 😀 And if you have had too much of sugary chocolate, you can also look for other ways to work on your waistline. For instance, for every bar you will walk an hour. Is that an idea that could work for you?

      It’s such a pity that we were all brought up on sugar. With all the best intentions we developed a lifelong addiction that way. Just try to take care as much as you can, because for people our age Diabetes type2 is a risk.

      Reply
  7. Wow, who knew that cocoa and cacao were two different things. I certainly didn’t. I have always been a dark chocolate lover. I usually buy the 80% or 90% cocoa and enjoy a piece now and then with a cup of tea. I even got Rick to try it and he likes it too although he still loves milk chocolate, I never did. I do tend to have it early afternoon as everything seems to keep me awake at night. That brownie cake sounds amazing and I will have to give it a try when we get back from visiting our grandsons.

    Reply
    • Don’t worry, Deb, I didn’t know it either when I started my investigation for this subject.
      Isn’t that awful that everything seems to keep us awake at some point? I experience the same, which means I drink coffee only before 11am, eating chocolate only before 3pm and quit eating all together at 5pm. It requires some sort of organization to get used to time-tables like this, but it’s doable. 🙂

      Have an amazing time with your grandsons! I am curious what they will think of the brownie cake. You can try it next time you will see them. Our youngest loves it, the eldest isn’t to keen on it.

      Reply

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