What Are The Benefits Of Cacao?

Advanced Sports and Exercise Nutritional Advisor
Detox Specialist

Billions of us, all around the world, love chocolate. However, there is an ongoing debate as to whether it is good or bad for our health. Some studies have suggested that certain types of chocolate may provide some positive benefits. But does this extend to all chocolate?

Chocolate, in its most basic form, is sourced from the seeds of the “cacao tree”.
This tree is native to Central and South America. It produces fruits, which contain 20-50 almond-sized beans, from which cacao may be sourced.

So, what is cacao? Is it different from cocoa?

Cacao vs Cocoa

Now, it is easy to confuse cacao and cocoa. Despite both words looking so similar, they are actually created by quite different processes.

Raw Cacao

• Made by cold-pressing unroasted cacao beans.
• Has a higher antioxidant and nutritional value.
• Has a higher magnesium content.


• A powder created after removal of cocoa butter and roasting.
• It is less expensive than cacao.
• Antioxidant and magnesium content is significantly reduced from the raw state.

Despite cocoa having lost some of its antioxidant activity, it may still maintain enough to give a benefit. But this benefit is further reduced by additional processing, or in chocolate with lower cocoa percentages.

Health Benefits of (Raw) Cacao

It has been suggested that consuming raw cacao may bring benefits to health and wellbeing, primarily it has been said to:

1. Fight Fatigue - when you’re feeling tired after a night’s rest, it is possible that your magnesium levels are low. Cacao may be able to provide a boost to magnesium levels.
2. Boost Mood - containing the molecule “anandamide”, also referred to as the “bliss molecule,” cacao may be able to produce pleasant sensations and feelings of happiness in the brain.
3. Boost Skin Health – the phytochemicals found in cacao may have a protective effect on skin, as they may be able to aid the skin’s natural defence against UV rays.
4. Fight Tooth Decay - a compound found in cacao, called theobromine, may be helpful in preventing cavities and protecting the teeth from tooth decay. However, bear in mind that if you are eating processed chocolate, this may contain sugar, which can increase decay!
5. Improve Digestion - with cacao being rich in magnesium and dietary fibre, consuming raw cacao may help ease constipation and improve digestive health.

Is Chocolate Really Good for Your Body?

So, we’ve seen some of the purported benefits of raw cacao. But do these translate into the chocolate products that we love so much?

Well, as we’ve seen, the antioxidant potential may be somewhat reduced, as is the fibre and magnesium…

Also bear in mind that many chocolate products also contain high amounts of added sugar and other sources of fats. To maximise any health benefits, as dark a chocolate as possible is preferred, meaning that more of it contains cocoa.

Even many dark chocolates may contain significant quantities of sugar. Very high percentage cocoa products contain far less (95-100% products for example), but will still contain a high amount of fat, which occurs naturally in the bean.

So, if you want to maximise the benefits afforded by cacao, you can buy and consume it raw… Though it may not be quite as delicious as you’d imagine (it can be rather bitter)! If you want to go for a more “typical” chocolate product, then aim for the highest percentage cocoa you can, plus, check the label for added sugar!

All chocolate is calorie dense and overconsuming it could lead to weight gain. So, whatever your chocolate of choice, enjoy in moderation!

Advanced Sports and Exercise Nutritional Advisor
Detox Specialist

What If You Don’t Go To University

It’s August, which means it’s that time of the year again: A Level Results Day.

And whether it’s your friends or your grandma, there’s one question on everyone’s lips…

Are you going to university?

You might be heading back from college to the tune of ‘Did you get the grades?’

Or maybe you never wanted to go to uni in the first place.

Whichever boat you’re in; what happens when your friends are prepping for freshers’ week, but you’re not?

No fear – we’re here to help! The first thing you need to consider is:

Are you sure about your decision?

It’s difficult to aim for your goals if you don’t know what they are, or how to reach them. This means that if you have a particular career in mind, you might want to see a careers advisor or thoroughly research alternative routes into the field you’re passionate about before making a final decision.

But then what? Well, first, it’s important to know…

There are a ton of careers that don’t require a university degree

It’s true! You may have considered some of these options: hairdressing, beauty, personal training.

But those aren’t the only choices – many careers have a variety of pathways into them, from accountancy, to journalism, to nutritional therapy.

Read on to see what you can do instead of going to university:

Take a Gap Year

Fondly known as the ‘gap yah’ among millennials, many teens take a year out to decide what they want to do before continuing their education. This often takes the form of travelling, learning a language, and gaining lots of experience of different cultures – but it can also involve volunteering in a mix of industries to help you make a more informed decision about your future. While this kind of break provides a temporary solution, it’s common for people to head back to school once they complete their gap year, but many teens also open doors to careers they never knew existed!

(Pssst… Looking for the latest work experience opportunities? GoThinkBig is a good place to start).

Find an Apprenticeship

Becoming an apprentice is a great way to get straight into work AND gain a qualification while you earn. From farming, to hospitality, to law, you can choose your apprenticeship from a huge selection of fields and levels, from Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) right through to Level 6/7 (degree equivalent). Depending on the level, an apprenticeship can take between 1 and 5 years to complete, but you’ll be learning loads of job-specific skills along the way.

If you’re in the UK, you can click here to find an apprenticeship.

Get an Entry-Level Job

While a large number of entry-level jobs will attract applications from students and recent graduates, many employers offer roles aimed at school-leavers – including training schemes. The obvious benefit of heading straight into work is that you’ll be earning right away.

A great way to find entry-level jobs is to keep an eye on websites that advertise vacancies in specific fields. Mediargh is a great example for media-related careers (publishing, science – whatever).

Become an Entrepreneur

Ever wanted to start your own business? Now might be your chance! This can be an exciting option for those not looking to go to university, but it’s wise to first consider the funding, support, and advice you’ll need along the way. If you’re in the UK, check out these government guidelines for new businesses.

For an extra boost when it comes to marketing your business effectively, check out Google’s Digital Garage for free digital marketing training.

Study for an Online Diploma

A huge barrier for many prospective students is the possibility of getting in over £50,000 of debt for a qualification in an area they’re not entirely sure about, or wasn’t necessary for their preferred career.

Whether you’re looking to boost your entrepreneurial endeavours, or you want to get a feel for a subject before jumping into a degree, an online diploma can be a great way to go! Loads of platforms offer you the chance to study via the web and many don’t require specialist technology, so you can get going with just a laptop and a cup of tea.

If it’s nutrition you’re into, we at The Health Sciences Academy® have a whole host of certifications and short courses for you to explore.

Nutrition not your thing? Not to worry – there are loads of other great providers out there. Check out Coursera and Lynda for an array of online courses on a variety of subjects.

They’re called options for a reason…

It’s important to remember that choosing to not go to university isn’t something that sets your career in a permanent direction. You may try one of the above and decide you want to go to uni after all! Perhaps you want some work experience, maybe you’re looking to boost your know-how before embarking on a degree, or you might even decide to do both an online course and an apprenticeship – the point is: the sky’s the limit.

What you’re doing this September doesn’t necessarily define the rest of your life, but it CAN boost it. Do what’s best for you and remember: it’s quite natural to need a little bit of extra time to work out where you want your career to go.

The Health Sciences Academy® is the UK’s largest online educator in nutrition science.

We are home to a variety of Level 5 online diplomas, in addition to a range of accredited short courses in nutrition topics – ready to help you ignite your career.

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Advanced Sports and Exercise Nutritional Advisor