It can be difficult to think of chocolate as being a weight loss product. After all, it’s often high in calories, sugar and fat, and definitely more of a guilty pleasure than a superfood. But cacao is different. This pure form of chocolate is packed with antioxidants, minerals and nutrients, and comes with a chocolatey kick, making it an ideal part of your diet. Here’s how superfood cacao can revolutionize your weight loss regime.
What is Cacao?
You might consider cacao to be a new health food, but actually this superfood has been around for years – millennia in fact. The Incas considered hot cacao to be the drink of the gods thanks to its distinctive taste and energizing properties. This association even inspired the cacao tree’s scientific name – Theobrama Cacao, from the Greek word ‘theo’ (god) and ‘broma’ (drink).
But what do we know about cacao today? Well, nutritional studies have revealed that cacao is packed with many important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These include:
- Magnesium – cacao offers an impressive amount of magnesium, a mineral that is vital for a huge number of biochemical processes, including muscle and nerve function.
- Iron – important in preventing iron deficiency like anaemia, which can leave you feeling weak, drained and in pain.
- Antioxidants – cacao is packed with antioxidant flavanols (a class of flavonoids), particularly, catechins, epicatechins and procyanidins. In fact, it has more of these flavonoids per serving than red wine and four times more catechins than tea.
Cacao and Weight Loss
Cacao can help with your weight loss regime in so many ways. Here’s just a few:
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
Cacao might not contain any sugar, but it can satisfy your sweet tooth. With its intense chocolatey flavor, cacao powder can be used in place of cocoa powder in a huge range of healthy recipes. Or if you’re looking for an instant chocolate hit, try adding cacao nibs to trail mix for a tasty snack that won’t derail your diet.
Packed with Dietary Fiber
You won’t get any dietary fiber from a regular chocolate bar, but cacao is packed with the stuff. In fact, one ounce of cacao nibs contains nine grams of fiber, making it a fiber-rich superfood. Fiber helps boost weight loss by keeping your bowel movements regular, reducing feelings of constipation and bloating.
In one clinical study, participants were asked to take cocoa powder supplemented with high-fiber cocoa bran twice daily for two months. During this period, the frequency of bowel movements increased and subjects reported feeling far less constipated.
May Help Inhibit Digestive Enzymes
Cacao isn’t just a healthy alternative to sugar-laden treats – it may actively help boost weight loss too. Some researchers believe that cacao may actually have anti-obesity properties thanks to its ability to inhibit digestive enzymes. This means it can potentially reduce the rate at which enzymes like amylase store fat. While no studies have been conducted on humans, one animal study found that including cacao in the diet of Wistar rats for a month increased the rate of weight loss. On top of that, the rats showed lower cholesterol levels.
Helps Balance Stress Hormones
Chocolate really is a feel-good food. Studies suggest that cacao can actually help balance stress hormones by positively impacting cortisol. It also raises serotonin and dopamine in the brain, helping to change brain chemistry in a healthy direction. This makes cacao a useful snack for those who find that stress frequently derails their diet.
How to Incorporate Cacao into Your Weight Loss Regime
Adding cacao nibs and cacao powder to your diet is simple. Here are a few quick and tasty ideas to get you started.
Add Cacao Nibs to Your Acai Bowl
Acai bowls are the ultimate plant-based breakfast. Packed with antioxidant-rich acai fruit, these bliss bowls are creamy, fruity and super healthy. Top yours with a handful of cacao nibs for extra crunch.
Blend Cacao Powder into Your Morning Smoothie
Cacao powder can transform your morning smoothie into a chocolate treat. For a delicious post-workout drink, try this cacao and maca smoothie.
Enjoy a Cup of Hot Cacao
Satisfy your chocolate cravings with a mug of hot cacao. Use almond milk and a dash of maple syrup for a drink that’s light in calories but rich in taste.
Cacao isn’t just a weight loss aid – it’s a highly nutritious superfood with a wealth of health benefits. This makes it a great addition to a balanced diet. Plus, studies point to the fact that cacao might actually help speed up weight loss thanks to its high fiber content and potential ability to inhibit digestive enzymes. But just remember that while cacao may be a health food, it still contains calories and fat, so keep a check on how much you’re eating.
For more reasons to incorporate this superfood into your diet, check out this post on the 5 surprising health benefits of cacao from our sister site, Superfood World.