Cocoa powder and cacao powder are incredibly easy to confuse because they’re spelled similarly. The confusion is further exacerbated because both substances come from the bean of the same plant—that plant also being called a cacao plant. To clear up this confusion, allow us to explain what the differences between cocoa versus cacao are and which is healthier.
Cocoa is the more familiar term, and it’s typically considered synonymous with chocolate, so let’s start here. Cocoa powder is defined as the processed ingredient created as a result of fermenting and roasting the cacao bean. It’s typical to add sugar and dairy to give cocoa powder its sweet taste. The higher temperatures at which cocoa is roasted also reduces bitterness—at the expense of nutritional value. Typical cocoa products include chocolate bars, hot chocolate mixes, and similar sweets.
Cacao can be considered the rawer product. Cacao products have become more popular in vegan and health-conscious groups because they’re less processed and they have no additives such as sugar. This preserves the nutritional value of the bean and gives cacao products a more bitter taste. Despite this, cacao still makes for a tasty treat, especially for people who don’t much care for the sweetness of cocoa. Cacao products are similar to common cocoa products, providing healthier versions of treats such as hot chocolate, but there are also some original cacao products, such as cacao husk teas.
Health and Nutrition
So besides the taste, what are the differences between cocoa versus cacao, and which is healthier? A lot of people prefer the taste of processed cocoa, but rawer cacao products contain greater nutritional value and far fewer calories thanks to their lack of additives. Cacao products also feature plenty of disease-fighting plant compounds that are lost in the processing of cocoa products. An example of these plant compounds is flavonol, which has antioxidant, heart-protective, and even anti-cancer properties. For a healthier choice, you can use cacao powder as a substitute for cocoa so that you can still enjoy your favorite foods and drinks while improving the effects on your health.