Chocolate… that’s good for you. Have I caught your attention?!
I was recently gifted the new Super-Cacao blend by Aduna to review for you guys on here, so I’ve given myself a few weeks to try it and I can now say that it does not disappoint. 100% vegan and gluten free with no added sugar or preservatives, this is about as close to its natural state as cacao powder can get. Plus, it’s the first cacao powder to have its heart health claim approved by the European Food Safety Authority!
What is cacao?
Cacao powder comes from the seeds of the cacao tree, cacao beans, which are also used to make cocoa powder and commercial chocolate. Cocoa and cacao powder are often confused with one another by consumers, but if you’re looking for health benefits then cacao is the one you want. This is because cacao powder is roasted at a lower temperature and retains most of its naturally-occuring minerals and benefits, whereas the less nutritionally-valuable cocoa powder is usually roasted at higher temperatures, alkalised, and has milk powder and sugar added. Aduna’s new Super-Cacao blend is a unique blend of two West African cacao powders, chosen for their high flavanol levels to lend ‘super’ to its name.
Why is it good for you?
Whilst the standard milk chocolate bars found in your supermarket may be demonised for their sugar content and ‘unhealthy’ status, chocolate in its purest form is actually incredibly good for you. Abundant antioxidants in this plant have been suggested by some scientific studies to help reduce the damaging effects of free radicals on the skin, resulting in more radiant skin through reduced signs of aging and improved collagen production.
As well as those lovely antioxidants, Aduna Super-Cacao has up to 8x the flavanol content of other cocoa powders – flavanols improve blood vessel functioning, making them great for maintaining your cardiovascular health and circulation. Some studies have suggested that the benefits of this increased blood flow could even extend to the brain, with important implications for memory and learning.
Cacao can also help to improve your general mood by raising serotonin levels. Similarly, eating it increases theobromine levels in the body, a neurotransmitter that is sometimes used as a stimulant in depression treatments. So it’s no wonder that we crave a chocolate brownie when we’re feeling less than sunny!
Does Aduna cacao help local growers too?
Yes! I’m told that all of Aduna’s products share this worthwhile aim, supporting small-scale producers in rural communities to ensure that the skillsets and economies of these places flourish.
In the case of their cacao powder, the communities benefitting live in rural West Africa. Many chocolate companies source their raw product from here but process it elsewhere in Europe or America, meaning that the local people miss out on the additional employment and income potential of processing the cacao themselves. Aduna are working to change this by sourcing over half of their cacao directly from a producer in Africa, keeping the processing and associated jobs and revenue within the country of origin. Furthermore, Aduna states that they only work with suppliers who demonstrate ethically, environmentally and socially responsible practices, meaning that the families and communities of growers all benefit from improved living standards and future prospects.
How I’ve loved using it…
As a self-confessed chocolate lover, I use cacao at every opportunity I get. Because it’s in powder form, it’s perfect for adding to smoothies, stirring into my morning porridge, or to replace the cocoa powder in everyday baked goods (just add a little more sweetener to the recipe if doing so – unlike cocoa, cacao isn’t sweet.) And good news: according to Aduna, heat shouldn’t affect the functioning of the flavanols too much, so you’ll still get your health benefits even in warm brownies.
One of the most frequent things I’ve been using Aduna’s Super-Cacao for is in my morning smoothie, with a combination of bananas, cacao and almond milk. The bananas lend the smoothie a sweetness to complement the cacao, and almond milk gives it a lovely smooth texture as well as an extra boost of protein and healthy fats. You can vary the ratios to your preference, but I like using 1 cup of almond milk, 1 large banana and a heaped tablespoon of cacao powder. If you want a little more energy, try adding a spoonful of almond butter too.
If you want a more filling breakfast, I’ve loved adding a heaped tablespoon of cacao to my Basic Oatmeal recipe, along with a spoonful of maple syrup to sweeten the dish. Or why not try it in my Chocolate Banana Ice Cream recipe – this is my favourite flavour of ‘nana ice cream’ as it feels more like a dessert than a breakfast! Speaking of dessert, I came up with this Chocolate Protein Pudding recipe using Aduna’s cacao blend, and it was a real hit. The cacao gave it such a rich colour and velvety texture that lower quality powders just didn’t quite match.
Finally, here’s an idea that’s a little more out-there but is nonetheless great: add this product to your chilli non carne. I’m not kidding, I’ve heard this tip from lots of food-lovers and finally tried it myself, and it works! I don’t know how it does it, but the cacao seems to give the dish a richer, more interesting depth of flavour that will delight your tastebuds. Try adding a level tablespoon to my recipe for Butternut and Bean Chilli and let me know what you make of it… it just goes to show, chocolate really does go with everything.
And when it’s as good for your body as Aduna’s blend is, why on earth not?!
You can find out more or buy products on Aduna’s site by clicking here.