Ceremonial-grade cacao packs a surprising amount of good stuff into such a delicious package. Let's take a closer look at its benefits:
The primary energetic benefit of ceremonial-grade cacao lies in its high theobromine content. This chemical, named for the theobroma cacao plant, provides gentle stimulation to the heart muscle and respiratory system, which increases your whole-body energy rather than interfering with your natural sleep-regulating hormones, as caffeine does. It also tapers off over a longer period, gently bringing you back to baseline without the coffee crash. Read more about cacao vs. coffee here.
The primary nutritional benefit of ceremonial-grade cacao is its incredible amount of antioxidants—as much as 40x the antioxidants of blueberries, and about equal to the acaí fruit. In concert with the potent theobromine action of cacao, the antioxidants encourage nitric oxide release in the smooth muscle of your vascular system, widening your blood vessels and increasing oxygen transport to your tissues. They also scavenge free-radicals, which are disease-causing molecules resulting from environmental pollutants, as well as normal cell respiration. As a rule, more antioxidants=better health=longer life. Antioxidants have also been shown to have very strong neuroprotective properties, both increasing mental performance and reducing the risk of dementia.
Cacao is one of the highest-magnesium foods on the planet. Magnesium is vital for muscular health, but also for relaxation and proper sleep regulation. The majority of the Western population is deficient in magnesium.
Cacao is the best plant-based source of iron, which promotes proper blood oxygenation and cell health.
It also contains vitamins A,C, and D.
A diet high in cacao has been shown to be heart-healthy, significantly decreasing the incidence of hypertensive disorders and reducing the risk of heart-attack and stroke.
The healthy fats in cacao are both filling (a great bullet coffee replacement) and excellent for hair, nail, and skin health.
For a deeper look at these physical benefits, please read our analysis of the nutritional superpowers of Cacao.
The Mood Boosting Effects of Cacao
Cacao contains three primary chemicals that support mood: l-tryptophan, phenylethylamine, and anandamide. We will explore each here:
L-tryptophan in cacao is an essential amino acid that is instrumental in making serotonin. Most serotonin is actually produced in the gut (much of the basis for the famous “gut-brain axis”). This neurotransmitter is vital for feelings of contentment and love, and has been explained by some to be the reason that eating chocolate is so pleasurable. Many antidepressants (SSRIs) work by blocking the re-uptake of serotonin, but cacao may naturally help boost the body’s serotonin production to yield antidepressant effects without the need for prescription drugs.
Phenylethylamine (PEA) is another compound found in cacao that helps to support mood. Known as the love drug, high PEA concentrations in the brain have been linked to both the feeling of falling in love and the “runner’s high” phenomenon. PEA works by slowing the reuptake of the primary mood neurochemicals serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, leading to an increased concentration of “happy chemicals” in the brain.
Finally, the endocannabinoid anandamide, the bliss molecule, has been shown to be present in small concentrations in cacao. However, it seems that other components in cacao actually inhibit the breakdown of the body’s own cannabinoids, meaning that cacao helps to keep your stress-relief system regulated for longer and with better results. CBD supplements act similarly by attaching to endocannibinoid receptors in the body, rather than the brain. The result? A full-body calm.
To explore further, check out our in-depth analysis of the mood-enhancing effects of Cacao.
Spiritual Support with Cacao
The intention of this cacao is to help you live your best life. We hope you use it to reflect, create, share, and connect with the world around you. We have countless experiences within our community that attest to the power of cacao to allow us the calm, perception, and openness to grow in our relationship both to ourselves and to others. We are not certain how it works, but we find our spirit grows with cacao, our creativity surges, and our compassion is set free. This may not be part of your experience with ceremonial cacao, and that’s okay. But if you are open to it, you may be surprised by the lessons that can come from a regular cacao ritual.
To explore ways to promote this spiritual well-being, check our primer on cacao ceremonies and rituals
Get Social with Cacao
As mentioned previously, a cacao ritual can be a solitary practice for some. But there are equal and often greater joys to be found in sharing a cup in community. This is the concept behind the cacao community circle—a place to be open and share ourselves with our peers. Both supporting others and being supported is vital to our holistic wellness, and in these times of earphones in, heads down, it takes intentional space-making for our social needs. So, we invite you to take a little time for your friends.