In this article, we’ll explore cacao’s benefits for the skin, and how you can incorporate this delicious ingredient into your wellness routine!
What is Cacao?
Cacao is a tropical plant native to Central and South America. The plant is known as Theobroma Cacao, which means “food of the gods” in Greek.
The seeds of the cacao plant produce our beloved chocolate, cocoa powder, and other cocoa-based products.
Potential Health Benefits of Cacao
Below are the nutrients found in cacao, and their potential health benefits:
- Antioxidants: Cacao is a rich source of flavonoids, which are potent antioxidants that protect the body from oxidative stress and inflammation. These compounds may improve heart health and cognitive function.
- Minerals: The iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese in cacao are important for body processes, such as oxygen transport, energy production, and bone health.
- Fiber: Cacao is a good source of dietary fiber, which is important for maintaining digestive health and regulating blood sugar levels.
- Healthy Fats: The healthy fats found in cacao help to promote satiety and support heart health.
- Mood-boosting compounds: Cacao contains compounds such as theobromine and phenethylamine. These compounds may have mood-boosting effects.
Cacao vs. Chocolate
The cacao plant and its’ seeds make chocolate and other cocoa-based products.
Chocolate is a processed food product made by combining cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar.
Cacao and chocolate differ in their nutritional profiles. Cacao is a rich source of antioxidants, minerals, and fiber.
On the other hand, chocolate may contain added sugars, fats, and other ingredients that can increase its calorie and fat content.
Cacao is rich in flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants that can help to protect the body from oxidative stress and inflammation.
These compounds may also offer other health benefits, such as improving heart health and cognitive function.
Chocolate may also have some of these benefits. However, the added sugars and other ingredients may negate some of the health benefits.
Cacao Benefits for Skin
Rich in antioxidants, cacao may help to protect the skin from free radical damage caused by UV rays and environmental pollutants. This can help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Cacao contains healthy fats, such as oleic acid, which can help to moisturize and nourish the skin. These fats can also improve the skin’s barrier function and prevent moisture loss.
Anti-inflammatory compounds in cacao reduce inflammation in the skin. This may decrease skin redness and swelling.
4. Acne Treatment
Cacao contains compounds that help to fight bacteria and reduce inflammation in the skin. This can make it a potentially effective treatment for acne.
5. Improved Skin Texture & Tone
Minerals in cacao, such as magnesium, copper, and zinc, are important for healthy skin function. These minerals may help to improve skin texture and promote a more even skin tone.
6. Healing & Repair
Cacao is a good source of skin-nourishing minerals like zinc, magnesium, calcium, and iron. These minerals help repair and regenerate damaged skin.
7. Improved blood circulation
Flavonoids in cacao can improve blood circulation. This promotes better oxygenation and nourishment of the skin. The result is a radiant, glowing complexion.
While cacao may have potential benefits for skin health, more research is needed to fully understand these benefits.
Additionally, consuming large amounts of chocolate, which contains added sugars and fats, may not be beneficial for overall health.
Cacao in skincare and cosmetics is part of an up-and-coming beauty trend known as Beauty Nutrition.
These products moisturize and nourish the skin. They may also provide additional benefits such as reducing inflammation.
Chocolate skincare products come in various forms. Including masks, scrubs, moisturizers, and body butter.
They may also include other natural ingredients such as honey, coconut oil, and shea butter.
Overall, chocolate skincare is a luxurious way to care for your skin, while also enjoying the many health benefits of cacao.
4 Ways to Add Cacao to Your Diet
Below are a few ways to reap the health benefits of cacao:
- Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate contains higher amounts of cacao solids compared to milk chocolate. This means it contains more beneficial compounds. Look for dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cacao for maximum benefits.
- Cacao powder: This powder is finely ground cacao beans. Add it to smoothies, oatmeal, or yogurt. You can also use it in baking recipes for cakes, brownies, or cookies.
- Raw cacao nibs: Nibs are small pieces of crushed cacao beans that have a bitter taste and crunchy texture. Add these nibs to smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, or baked goods for a nutritious boost.
- Cacao butter: Cacao butter is often used as an ingredient in recipes like chocolate bars, truffles, and baked goods to add a rich, chocolate flavor and a creamy texture.
Check out this Age-Defying Dietitian blog post for Dietitian-approved cacao products – “Treat Your Skin to the Sweet Goodness of Cacao Products“.
- Cacao tea: Cacao tea is made by steeping cacao shells or nibs in hot water. Enjoy it as a caffeine-free alternative to traditional tea or coffee!
- Hot cacao: Heat up a cup of milk in a saucepan. Add a tablespoon or two of cacao powder with your sweetener of choice. Stir until the cacao powder is fully dissolved and the mixture is hot. Pour it into a mug and enjoy!
- Cacao latte: Add cacao powder to a shot of espresso, and mix it with frothed milk and sweetener.
- Cacao smoothie: Blend cacao powder with a frozen banana and milk for a healthy and delicious smoothie.
The recommended amount of cacao powder for health benefits is 2-3 tablespoons (20-30 grams) per day.
Check out this Age-Defying Dietitian blog post “How to Make a Delicious Cacao Drink“.
Overall, adding cacao to your diet can be a simple and delicious way to boost your nutrient intake and potentially improve your health!
Caution for Cacao
Those who are sensitive to caffeine, take certain medications, and/or have allergies should use caution when considering cacao.
- Caffeine: Cacao contains a small amount of caffeine, which can have a stimulating effect on the body. Use caution if you are sensitive to caffeine.
- Medications: Cacao contains compounds that can interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners. If you are taking any medications, talk to your healthcare provider before consuming cacao or cacao-based products.
- Allergies and sensitivities: Some individuals may be allergic or sensitive to cacao. If you have a known allergy or sensitivity to cacao, it’s important to avoid consuming it or products that contain it.
Takeaways from Cacao Benefits for Skin
In conclusion, cacao has shown benefits for the skin and overall health.
It may protect the skin from damage, reduce signs of aging, and promote a healthy, glowing complexion.
Consuming cacao or using skincare products that contain cacao can provide benefits both internally and externally.
However, cacao should be consumed in moderation, as it still contains calories and fat.
Additionally, using pure, high-quality cacao products ensures you are getting the maximum health benefits.
Overall, incorporating cacao into your wellness routine can be a delicious and beneficial way to promote healthy skin!
Hungry for More?
Interested in more information on foods that benefit your skin?
Check out the Age-Defying Dietitian’s Skin & Beauty Nutrition section of the blog!
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Kathryn is a Registered Dietitian and a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach. She is also Certified through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Weight Management. She has 20+ years of nutrition experience working in a variety of healthcare settings. Her passion is to provide evidence-based nutrition information that supports vitality and longevity!