We live in a time where phrases like “Non-GMO” and “Holistic Nutrition” and “Clean Eating” are thrown around regularly. And if you spend time perusing fitness, health, nutrition and wellness content here, or on Pinterest (are you subscribed to our boards yet?) and Instagram you’ve no doubt seen these phrases, along with labels like “Organic”, “Paleo”, “Whole30” and more.
Don’t feel embarrassed if you are familiar with all of these catch phrases and terms but deep down are confused and wondering….”what really matters??” and “what do all these catch phrases MEAN anyway?”. You aren’t alone!
In the coming weeks, you’ll see new posts here doing deep dives on all of these phrases and topics, to help you better navigate the grocery aisles and make better choices.
In addition- like today, we’ll be exploring in greater depth some popular ingredients that you’ve likely seen and probably wondered about. I don’t know about you, but I’m guilty of reading articles or pinning something that talks about the benefits of turmeric or cinnamon or cacao (or something similar)- and then seeing that product at the grocery store, remembering “Oh wait, that was supposed to be really good for…..for….well, it was really healthy and good for me, so I’ll buy it and figure out how to eat it later.”-
WHO DOES THAT?
I found two lovely glass jars of dark powder in my cabinet, labeled (because I am THAT person that has my cabinets organized like Julia Roberts in Sleeping With The Enemy) “CACAO” and the other “MACA”. I found myself making a protein shake one morning going, “What’s the difference between MACA and CACAO?” and I was voxing with my dietitian Emily about the very detail. I did a poll of our FitFluential community and was (pleased) to find that more than 65% of those polled had no idea the difference between the two or the benefits OR how to use the ingredients.
So here we are. You’re welcome.
Let’s start with CACAO. I figure we’ll go alphabetically so as not to show preference.
beanlike seeds from which cocoa, cocoa butter, and chocolate are made.
Let’s be clear. CACAO is not COCOA. Cocoa is made from CACAO beans.
Cocoa is produced when cacao beans are treated with high heat, which does destroy many of its inherent health benefits. So while both ingredients can provide that chocolaty flavor, go with cacao to gain all those healthy bonus points.
We found some fantastic information via an article on Nuts.com about the very healthy benefits of cacao:
- Lowers the Risk of Diabetes, Hypertension and More – because it is a superior source of MAGNESIUM. (Yea, stay tuned, we’ll be publishing a post on MAGNESIUM coming soon, be sure you are subscribed!)
- Reduces Inflammation and Supports Heart Health because of the abundant presence of flavonoids.
- Provides a fantastic source of IRON. (My last doctor’s appointment, my bloodwork showed I was VERY low in IRON. No Bueno. This is a priority for better health, my friends. You need optimal iron levels.
- Eating More Cacao Can Improve Your Mood “Cacao contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is sometimes known as a “love drug.” — essentially it creates elevated mood and higher energy levels.” (paraphrased from Nuts.com article)
Friends – the more research I did, the more goodness I found on Cacao. Holy Smokes! This is the gift that keeps on giving.
P.S. here is a great post on Cacao Nibs with some additional info comparing cacao vs. cocoa via Dr. Axe: CLICK HERE to read.
Dr. Mercola also has a solid read on Cacao on his blog. CLICK HERE to read more.
Let’s talk about MACA next. You’ll often see this written about or talked about as a “SUPERFOOD.” Hmmm.
MACA is not, (as I thought…oops!) related to the cacao beans or any type of bean. It is the root of a vegetable found in Peru. It is sometimes referred to as “Peruvian Ginseng” and is well known for boosting both energy and libido.
My initial research showed some correlation between consuming MACA and – resulting hormonal changes like raised testosterone or progesterone. Not all these studies are substantiated enough but- if you, like me, have any hormonal imbalance issues, I would recommend- and many of the articles and white papers I read for this piece said the same thing—avoiding consuming this until you review with a doctor you trust (I plan to discuss this with my doctor, and may come back to update this post based on what I find).
This woman wrote a great post- and I highly recommend it – CLICK HERE.
I read many blog posts where women shared reports of bad bad PMS when taking MACA and tender breasts as well as weight gain. As always, we encourage you to do your own research, don’t just take our word or our position on anything.
MACA – is also a cruciferous vegetable- (think, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) and it has some good macros: 28g of MACA powder has 20g carbs, 4g protein, 1g of fat.
Generally speaking, there are some good benefits to be obtained from MACA for better health. MOST of the claims I read about were vague “…may increase better performance in sports….” Or “….may provide clearer thinking…” or “….may aid with energy….”- well, so does water. It just seemed to ME that after doing a lot of reading up on this food—it was a whole lot of speculation vs. overwhelming proof backed up by lots of data that MACA does any one specific thing. This is – again – my personal opinion. Most of the findings tended to refer to benefits specifically for men in regards to libido and sex drive. Guys- have at it.
It is my feeling after doing the reading for this blog post- that I’ll be incorporating CACAO – like I have been- in protein shakes (recipe below) and in other recipes. For now, I probably will not add any MACA in to my diet until I discuss with my doctor—and I’ll share his opinion as well in posts to come.
Please note: This post has affiliate links.
- (I use a Nutribullet blender and highly recommend it!)
- Into the Nutribullet container, add about ¼ cup crushed ice and about ¼ cup filtered cold water.
- • 1 Cup Cashew Milk (or Almond Milk or Coconut Milk. I’m currently avoiding dairy and in general cannot tolerate regular milk, but you could use regular milk too—go for grass fed cows/organic etc.) Current favorite brand is the Califia Cashew Milk, available at most grocery stores and on Amazon.com.
- • 2 TBS Cacao
- • 2 TBS PBFit Powder
- • 1 Scoop PaleoPro Aztec Vanilla Paleo Protein Powder
- • Optional: Add sweetener of choice (Sometimes I’ll add Torani Sugar Free Syrup like Salted Caramel- just a splash will do!)
- Blend well, drink immediately. You’re welcome.
Kelly’s Current Favorite Paleo Protein Shake
(I use a Nutribullet blender and highly recommend it!)
Into the Nutribullet container, add about ¼ cup crushed ice and about ¼ cup filtered cold water.
- 1 Cup Cashew Milk (or Almond Milk or Coconut Milk. I’m currently avoiding dairy and in general cannot tolerate regular milk, but you could use regular milk too—go for grass fed cows/organic etc.) Current favorite brand is the Califia Cashew Milk, available at most grocery stores and on Amazon.com.
- 2 TBS Cacao
- 2 TBS PBFit Powder
- 1 Scoop PaleoPro Aztec Vanilla Paleo Protein Powder
- Optional: Add sweetener of choice (Sometimes I’ll add Torani Sugar Free Syrup like Salted Caramel– just a splash will do!)
Blend well, drink immediately. You’re welcome.
What do you think? Have you used MACA or CACAO? What is your favorite way to incorporate these ingredients?