Cacao is a top source of antioxidants packed with a full, unadulterated taste. It has a more bitter taste than milk chocolate, but the health benefits of cacao make switching out unhealthy chocolate for cacao nibs, powder and desserts totally worth it.

Cacao comes from the fruit of the Theobroma cacao tree that is native to the Americas. Its high antioxidant and nutrient level makes it a healthy choice to incorporate into your daily diet. Here are five reasons you should eat raw cacao everyday.

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1. It’s the most nutritionally complex food on the planet.

Raw cacao is the most antioxidant-rich food in the world. It is present in the form of flavonoids, which help prevent free radical damage and boost collagen production. Cacao contains over 300 important compounds, including protein, fat, certain B-vitamins and minerals such as calcium, sulfur, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and copper.

2. It can improve your mood.

Cacao contains the chemicals phenylethylamine (PEA) and anandamide. PEA is an adrenal-related chemical that we create naturally when we’re excited. It also plays a role in feeling focused and alert because it causes your pulse rate to quicken, like that rush when we are excited or fall in love. Anandamide, an endorphin that the human body naturally produces after exercise, works like amphetamines to increase mood and decrease depression.

3. It can help you lose weight.

Cacao contains chromium, which can naturally regulate blood sugar. It also contains coumarin, which has appetite-suppressing, blood-thinning and anti-tumor properties. According to an article by Examiner.com, researchers in a study that was published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry say the “compounds in the cocoa bean appear to disrupt the activity of enzymes normally used to digest fats and some carbohydrates. With this activity disrupted, the fats and carbs don’t get digested – so we don’t experience the harmful effects, including weight gain.”

4. It protects the heart/cardiovascular system.

According to the Linus Pauling Institute, as soured by Natural News, the flavonoids in cacao can block the oxidation of “bad” LDL cholesterol. Ultimately, this blocking process improves circulation and minimizes the risk of heart disease.

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5. It can be eaten easily, quickly and on-the-go.

It’s easy to eat cacao everyday because it can be eaten in a variety of ways. Try mixing cacao powder into smoothies or in raw desserts and hot chocolate in place of cocoa powder. You can also add cacao nibs on top of oatmeal, parfaits, salads and puddings. Use raw cacao powder in this homemade raw cherry berry chocolate cheesecake or in raw chocolates.

Who knew this delicious treat is also so amazing for your health? Try adding cacao to your daily diet and reap its nutrient and antioxidant benefits!

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Image Source: Hazelnut Cacao Torte