When we start to eat more mindfully, usually the first thing to take off our menus are desserts and candy. There is one dessert ingredient, however, that classifies as a superfood, and that is chocolate in its purest form- cacao. All chocolate starts out as cacao, then is usually processed into cocoa, mixed with sugars and other ingredients to make chocolate. By using cacao instead of eating a typical chocolate bar, we can give our bodies a little boost of nutrition while still enjoying that chocolatey flavor most of us love. Here is a list of 6 potential health benefits of cacao. 

1. Magnesium- This mineral is responsible for over 300 different chemical processes in the body, so obviously it is extremely important to be getting a good dose of magnesium daily. However, most people are actually deficient due to not eating enough of the foods containing this critical compound.

2. Antioxidants- These substances help to fight free radicals in the body, protecting us against many illnesses including different kinds of cancer, arthritis, and diabetes. Antioxidants also help the body to age gracefully.

3. Iron- Needed for proper blood and hormone production. Anemia is one of the most common blood disorders, which is treated by increasing the amount of iron in the diet.

4. Flavonoids- A type of antioxidant which has a strong anti-inflammatory effect on the body, which can help with pain reduction.

5. Protein- Cacao is a great source of plant based protein. For each tablespoon of cacao powder added to your food, you get one gram of protein.

6. Fiber- Each tablespoon of cacao has almost 2 grams of fiber, helping the digestion to move more smoothly. 

Cacao can be used as a replacement for cocoa in any recipe which calls for it. Add it to baked goods, smoothies, or savory dishes.