Cacao is a superfood enjoyed for thousands of years from the Maya civilization until today. Our Biarte chocolate bars are made with cacao grown in the same region inhabited by this great civilization of which we are very proud. Now, let’s explore cacao’s rich history in Guatemala and Mesoamerica, plus its numerous health benefits.
Cacao was a versatile commodity for the Maya and played several roles in their society. Here are some important ways the Maya used cacao:
- Trade: Cacao beans were currency traded for other goods, services, or to pay taxes.
- Beverage: Cacao was turned into a bitter drink, still prepared today, which they believed offered good health. It is not like the hot chocolate we know today, though.
- Religion: The cacao tree was a sacred plant to the Maya. The cacao drink was a drink of the gods but was consumed by everyone from rulers to common people. It was part of many sacred rituals.
Cacao participated in many aspects of Maya's daily life. We are proud to grow and source our cacao from this special land.
Now let’s look at cacao’s health benefits. The Maya were correct in believing cacao was a unique plant, in fact, today it is considered a superfood. We now understand that cacao has several health benefits, and here are some of them:
- Aging and cell damage: Cacao is rich in antioxidants, compounds that protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause harm to your cells and contribute to aging and disease. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and help prevent this damage, making them essential for maintaining good health.
- Heart health: The flavonoids in cacao have been shown to improve blood flow and lower blood pressure, which can be beneficial for heart health. In addition, cacao is also a good source of magnesium, which is important for many bodily functions, including muscle and nerve function, heart health, and bone health.
- Brain function: Cacao contains caffeine and theobromine, two compounds that can improve alertness and cognitive function. Caffeine is a stimulant that helps increase alertness and reduce fatigue, while theobromine is a mild stimulant that can improve focus and concentration. These two compounds, combined with the flavonoids in cacao, can give your brain a boost and help you stay alert and focused throughout the day.
- Mood: The flavonoids in cacao can also affect brain chemistry and improve mood. Studies have shown that flavonoids can increase levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which can help improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Magnesium: Cacao is a good source of magnesium, which is important for many bodily functions, including muscle and nerve function, heart health, and bone health. Magnesium is also essential for healthy brain function, as it helps regulate neurotransmitters and maintain healthy sleep patterns.
We must recognize most health benefits come from consuming dark chocolates, which have a higher percentage of cacao. To maximize the benefits of cacao, try consuming chocolates that are 70%, like our Dark Moon chocolate, or higher. Milk chocolates usually have a lower cacao percentage, although our Misty Mornings is officially dark having 50% cacao.
To conclude, cacao is a superfood enjoyed for thousands of years by the Maya for its numerous health benefits and flexible uses. Later it was transformed into chocolate and savored globally for its delicious flavor. From antioxidants to heart health, and mood enhancement to brain function, cacao is a food that has it all.