Chocolate vs Cocoa vs Cacao

How can one chocolaty delicious treat have so many names? Chocolaty, Chocolate, Cocoa, and Cacao. Once I figured out the difference, I have been able to enjoy more chocolaty delights than ever.  


adjective \ choc·o·laty \ ˈchä-k(ə-)lə-tē , ˈchȯ- \ made of or like chocolate; also having a rich chocolate flavor ~ Merriam Webster


noun \ choc·o·late \ ˈchä-k(ə-)lət ~ Merriam Webster  Basically, chocolate is referred to as the substance used in creating a treat; like chocolate milk, chocolate cake, chocolate coating, chocolate syrup, chocolate candies.

So, your “Box of Chocolates” refers to chocolate in general, not the specific ingredients in which the “chocolate” was made.




One way of processing cacao beans is by roasting them at high temperatures and then pressing them to remove the cacao fat. Once this is done, cocoa powder can be produced. Cocoa powder is similar to cacao powder in taste but most of the nutritional benefits and antioxidants that cacao offer is lost because of the heating process. Once in cocoa powder form, sweeteners, cacao butter, and other ingredients can be added to make chocolate.

These high temperatures destroy living enzymes and nutrients, therefore my preference is always raw cacao powder.


The cacao tree is the source of everything we know as chocolate, in all of its forms. This tree, native to South America, produces seed pods. Harvesters crack them open and take out the seeds, which are called cacao beans. They actually look like coffee beans.


Raw cacao powder is made by cold-pressing un-roasted cacao beans. The process keeps the living enzymes in the cacao and removes the fat (cacao butter). Cocoa looks the same but it’s not because it has been heated, removing enzymes and nutrients.

You can eat cacao beans raw. Their flavor is like a very bitter form of chocolate, and it varies depending on the growing conditions of the cacao tree. Cacao beans are usually fermented and dried before they’re processed any further.

It is at this point that the cacao bean is processed that determines if it stays cacao or becomes cocoa.

Forms of Chocolate

Cocoa and cacao are available in many forms: nibs, chips, butter, powder, and chocolate bars, just to name a few.

Studies on Health Benefits of Chocolate

The vast majority of studies exploring links between chocolate and health benefits are not dealing with chocolates you find at the store. They’re focused on cacao beans themselves, either in raw or minimally processed forms.

The closer you get to consume the raw cacao beans, the more health benefits you receive.


The goal is to get the sugar, dairy, and additives out of our diets. We do not want to remove the joy of eating chocolate and gaining the health benefits of such. Enjoy the healthiest form of chocolate you can find or make. Make your own chocolate pudding or hot chocolate!!

Obviously, if you have an allergy or food sensitivity to chocolate or caffeine, it is wise to remove it from your diet until that changes. As you move towards health, your food sensitivities will lessen.

For your health and well being, you can dive in and switch all your chocolate consumption to raw cacao or you can make the switch in stages. I use my “stress meter” to determine how I make choices like this. If it creates too much stress to dive in, then I go slowly in stages. If my body is chronically ill and needs all the help it can get, I dive in to remove any stressors on my physical body. You know what works best for you.

Don’t take the joy of eating out of your life, take the stress out of your life!

Maribeth Baxter, MBEC

LOGO - 2017-12

Donations accepted to serve others on their chronic illness journey. Maribeth Baxter, MBEC provides voluntary certified health coaching services to the financially limited during their time of crisis.


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