Chocolate is our ultimate bae, but we can’t deny that it’s not great for our health, and definitely not our skin. So, in our continual efforts to be healthier and control our cravings, we switched to cacao, and now we’re hooked. It tastes like dark chocolate so we still feel like we’re getting a hit of sweetness, but it’s actually a superfood that’s bursting with antioxidants. And no – it’s not a typo, and it’s definitely not the same as cocoa…

Cacao VS Cocoa

Cacao (pronounced CU-Cow) is a raw powder, derived from the unroasted cocoa beans found most commonly in areas of South America and Ghana. What makes it different to cocoa, is cocoa has been roasted at a high temperature, which reduces the enzyme content and decreases its nutritional content as much as 90%. Cocoa powder is then often processed with sugar and other chemicals, which is what dehydrates your body and can trigger breakouts. Cacao retains all these beauty-boosting enzymes and is free of any refined sugar, here’s how it works:

For your skin: When applied onto your skin, cacao will give you an even complexion and a stunning glow as it increases blood flow and hydrates your skin. It’s ideal for any acne sufferers as its full of fatty acids and raw enzymes that boost skin cell renewal helping you get rid of any acne scars. As its high in antioxidants and vitamin C, it fights sign of premature aging while keeping your skin looking firm and youthful.

For your hair: If you incorporate cacao into your weekly diet, your mane will seriously thank you – we’re talking major volume and extra glossy locks. This is because cacao increases blood circulation, boosting growth while strengthening each strand of hair, helping to keep split ends at bay.

For your body: We love to sprinkle cacao nibs (think of them like chocolate chips, but instead they’re cacao) into our yogurt, smoothie, and porridge, as it lowers your blood pressure and reduces your risk of heart disease, not to mention it helps detoxify your body. It’s a serious mood booster too and actually releases the same gooey brain chemicals as when you’re falling in love. It’s packed with other minerals as well, like iron, magnesium, and calcium.

Our Favorite Cacao Recipes:

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You can buy cacao as a powder or as nibs, either online or at your local health food store. We like this Raw Organic Cacao Powder from Amazon, $14.

Vegan Cacao smoothie
For the perfect post-gym or afternoon refuel, blend together 1 1/2 cups of almond milk, one banana, 1 tablespoon of oats, 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 tablespoon of raw cacao. Serve over ice and enjoy.

Cacao Fudge
This sweet treat is actually super nourishing for both your skin and your hair. In a food processor, blend together 4 tablespoons of almond butter with 4 tablespoons of coconut oil. Then add 2 tablespoons of raw cacao, 4 tablespoons of raw honey, and a pinch of sea salt. Place on a tray lined with baking paper and pop it into the freezer for an hour, then break it into pieces and enjoy! For the full video click here.

Cacao mask
This mask is amazing for acne-prone sufferers or anyone who wants a quick glow, as the cucumber will instantly brighten the skin and the cacao is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Start by mashing 1 avocado in a bowl until smooth, then stir in 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 tablespoon of cacao until well combined. Squeeze the juice of 3 to 4 slices of cucumber, ensuring the seeds make it into the mixture. Apply to your face, leaving it for 20 minutes before you rinse it off with warm water.

Let us know if you’ve already tried cacao in the comments below.