Raw Chocolate: The Superfood You Never Had!You may know that dark chocolate is a healthier choice than milk chocolate and that the cocoa in chocolate can offer a wide range of health benefits.

What you may not know is that most dark chocolate today is so highly processed that it loses most of its nutrient and antioxidant strength and really provides you with nothing more than excess sugar and fat.  You may have also never learned the important difference between cacao and cocoa…but you will soon!

This quick guide is meant to restore the artery-clogging and fat-gaining reputation of chocolate.  You will learn the most important facts about raw chocolate including its impressive health benefits1, where to buy it, and how to incorporate this superfood into your diet.

What is Raw Chocolate?

What is Raw Chocolate?Cacao (ka·cow) is the raw, unprocessed form of chocolate.2  These untreated seeds referred to as cacao beans can be considered a superfood offering a wealth of antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals.

Is it true that chocolate grows on trees?  If you thought “Yes”, you are certainly right.

The superstar of chocolate known as cacao beans are grown on small trees named Theobroma cacao, which literally translates to “cacao, the food of the gods” in the Greek language.  These trees are native to Mexico, Central and South America.  Each cacao pod that emerges from the tree typically houses between 40 and 60 cacao seeds.  After careful harvesting, the pods are opened, the seeds are removed, and they undergo a natural fermentation and drying process.  After the drying process is completed in 1-2 weeks, you are left you with raw cacao beans.

What's in the coca bean?To make the chocolate that we all know and love, these raw cacao beans are then roasted to form cocoa, which is then combined with sugar and fats until the beans are unrecognizable.  The high heat during the roasting process reduces the levels of antioxidants in the cacao, minimizing the powerful health benefits found in the unprocessed, raw cacao.3  To receive the greatest benefits from cacao, look for ‘raw’, non-roasted cacao beans.

Raw Chocolate Health Benefits

Raw Chocolate Health BenefitsRaw chocolate contains many important vitamins and minerals including:4

  • Magnesium, and other essential minerals including calcium, sulfur, zinc, iron, copper, potassium, and manganese
  • Polyphenols called flavonoids, with antioxidant properties
  • Vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B9, E
  • Essential heart-healthy fat: oleic acid a monounsaturated fat
  • Protein
  • Fiber

These nutrients found in raw chocolate have been linked to a number of health benefits:

1) Raw chocolate can lower blood pressure & improve circulation

Flavanols, theobromine, and other components found in cacao may lower blood pressure and enhance circulation by promoting dilation, strength, and health of blood vessels

2) Raw chocolate can promote cardiovascular function & health

The antioxidant power of flavonoids and essential minerals and vitamins found in cacao can support healthy heart functioning5 by lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow, lowering LDL cholesterol, and reducing plaque buildup on artery walls.6

3) Raw chocolate Can Neutralize free radicals

High levels of antioxidants protect the body from a buildup of free radicals from sun exposure, pollution, cigarette smoking, etc., which may damage healthy body tissue giving rise to cancer and cardiovascular disease.

4) Raw Chocolate can improve digestion

A sufficient amount of fiber delivered with each serving of cacao supports digestion while cacao stimulates the body’s production of digestive enzymes.

5) Raw chocolate can enhance physical and mental well-being

There are many components of cacao including alkaloids, proteins, beta-carotene, leucine, linoleic, lipase, lysine, and theobromine, that all work together to improve physical and mental health.  For example, theombromine helps to stimulate the central nervous system, relax smooth muscles, and dilate blood vessels, giving the body a boost of energy;  “bliss” chemicals found in cacao help to increase circulation and availability of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in brain, improving mood and combating depression.

Raw Chocolate Buying Tips

Cacao beans can be found at most health food markets including Whole Foods, and online at Amazon, or Navitas Naturals.

Raw cacao can be purchased as whole beans (peeled or unpeeled), nibs 7, or powder8.

Cacao Beans
Cacao Beans
Cacao Nibs
Cacao Nibs
Cacao Powder
Cacao Powder

Note: Cacao nibs are cacao beans that have been peeled and crushed, while cacao powder is made from peeled and cold-pressed cacao beans.

What to Look for when Buying Raw Chocolate:

Look out for labels that read “raw” chocolate or cacao.  Raw beans are not roasted, and are only fermented and dried, conserving their   superfood composition.

Avoid labels that read “roasted” chocolate or cacao.  When the beans are roasted, they are stripped of their antioxidant properties.

Raw Chocolate Health Hierarchy:

  1. raw, unprocessed cacao beans
  2. organic, unroasted cocoa powder (not treated with alkalis)
  3. organic dark chocolate with the lowest % of processed sugar, and highest % of cocoa powder or liquor 9

How To Fit Raw Chocolate Into Your  Diet?

How To Fit Raw Chocolate Into Your  Diet?There are many ways that you can incorporate raw cacao into your everyday diet.  Try snacking on whole cacao beans or crush them into nibs and throw them in your favorite snack mixes.  If the beans are too bitter for your taste buds, try grinding the beans into a cacao powder to better conceal the cacao in your favorite foods and drinks.

Raw Chocolate Eating Tips:

  • Blend into fruit smoothies
  • Add whole beans or nibs to granola and trail mixes
  • Add nibs or powder to oatmeal or yogurt
  • Mix powder with dairy or nut milk
  • Add powder to your favorite protein drink
  • Use cacao nibs to replace chocolate chips in frozen yogurt, pancakes, muffins, cookies, etc.

Raw Chocolate Nutrition Facts

Nutrition Facts
**A 1-ounce (28 g) serving size is about 16 beans 10

Show 10 References

  1. Ingalls, L. Health Benefits Of Raw Cacao Nibs Livestrong.com. 2011.
  2. Cocoa Bean Wikipedia.org. 2012.
  3. HEALTHY DARK CHOCOLATE – Raw, Untainted, Non-heated, Organic Cacao! . EnvironHealthTech.com. 2000.
  4. Raw Cacao – The Real Chocolate! Lifefood.com. 2012.
  5. Corti, R, Flammer, A, Hollenberg, N, Luchser, T. Contemporary Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine Circulation, American Heart Assoc. 2012.
  6. Heart and Vascular Health & Prevention . Cleveland Clinic. 2012.
  7. Cacao Nibs Good Cause Wellness. 2012.
  8. Live Superfoods Raw Cacao Powder. Live Superfoods. 2012.
  9. Wintle, A. For Chocolate’s True Benefits, It’s Time To Ditch The Foil, And Get ‘Real’ . DailyMailUK. 2011.
  10. Nutrition Facts for Cocoa and Chocolate. Cacao Web. 2003.


  1. profile avatar
    Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Apr 12, 2012 - 10:42 #

    Amazing job on your first post, Jessica. Congrats!

  2. profile avatar
    Jessica Zack Apr 12, 2012 - 11:00 #

    Marc, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the BuiltLean team! This calls for a raw chocolate celebration!!

  3. profile avatar
    Jill Schimmerling Apr 12, 2012 - 11:43 #

    Great article. I love chocolate and now I will try the raw chocolate Look forward to reading more of your articles.

  4. profile avatar
    Nate @ Retrolithic Apr 12, 2012 - 12:55 #

    How is the flavor of the raw cacao? I’ve seen some videos of people trying to eat the 100% cacao bars and they were none too happy about it. It supposedly tastes like a bar of charcoal, but I wonder if that has to do with the roasting process.

    1. profile avatar
      Jessica Zack, HHC Apr 13, 2012 - 09:34 #

      Raw cacao definitely has a bitter taste. Let’s keep in mind that this is the raw component of chocolate before it undergoes the roasting process, and then mixing with sugar and fat to make the sweeter and less nutritious version known as cocoa and chocolate.

      If you are already not a fan of very dark chocolate which has similar bitterness, I would recommend you try dipping the whole beans or nibs in honey or agave nectar and freeze them for a great snack! If dipping in a sweetener is still not sweet enough for your palate, your best bet is to throw some of the cacao powder into smoothies, protein drinks, etc. and you should be able to mask the bitterness pretty well. I tend to notice that the recognizable chocolate scent and taste is released more and more as I break the beans up.

      I understand that raw chocolate may not be for everyone, but I find that the earthy taste is just a reminder its rawness and purity, and I love knowing that I am eating something packed with nutrients!

  5. profile avatar
    Michael Apr 12, 2012 - 13:46 #

    I really enjoyed the article and will be picking up some cocao powder soon. Thanks for the info!

  6. profile avatar
    Garrett Apr 12, 2012 - 16:17 #

    I have been using this exact powder shown above for about a month now. Makes smoothies with blueberries, acai and carrot juice pretty tasty. I found mine at Whole Foods.

  7. profile avatar
    Fran Sterling Apr 12, 2012 - 18:17 #


    love the entire concept of learning about the foods we eat and digest. “we are what we eat” will no longer be associated with a negative connotation, rather a positive visual image of Built Lean!

    during these first magnificent 8 weeks with the Built Lean program i am forgoing my raw cacao with my protein drink to keep calories down. am once again excited and looking forward to adding this to my drink! one of my favorite website for purchasing healthy ingredients in smaller quantities is naturalzing.com if you do not have a health food store locally (i live in michigan)

    thanks to the entire team for this fantastic connection supporting us in improving our health everyday!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Apr 12, 2012 - 19:34 #

      Thanks Fran for the kind comment! Keep up the good work with the program.

  8. profile avatar
    Shirley Apr 12, 2012 - 18:24 #

    Thanks for the article. I will give these a try since I love chocolate so much. Love to read your articles, keep them coming.

  9. profile avatar
    dave stein Apr 12, 2012 - 20:01 #

    Because I have GERD and B.E, I’not supposed to eat chocolate. Is raw cacou considered equally bad for this disorder?

    1. profile avatar
      Jessica Zack, HHC Apr 13, 2012 - 11:21 #

      Dave, I am so glad you asked this question… As I am sure you already know, B.E. patients need to carefully watch acidity in their diet, even more so than patients with G.E.R.D. Different varieties and brands of cacao beans tend to have different levels of acidity. This is all related to differences in fermentation (length of fermentation) and drying process.

      There is a natural component found in both raw and processed chocolate known as theobromine. This chemical is a vasodilator, responsible for many cardiovascular benefits such as improved blood pressure and circulation. With your advanced condition and complications of acid reflux, increased levels of theobromine and smooth muscle relaxation (of LES) may be of concern.

      l recommend that you consult with your physician before adding raw cacao to your diet because of your particular vulnerability to these elements.

      Take care, Dave!

  10. profile avatar
    stacie schmidt Apr 13, 2012 - 15:41 #

    Great article, well written and very informative!! i will send this to Uncle Michael. I look forward to your next one and will try the cacao with honey!!

  11. profile avatar
    Firdaus Apr 13, 2012 - 20:50 #

    Dear marc
    I am obese and i need ur help ..pls pls..

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Apr 15, 2012 - 23:21 #

      @Firdaus- The first place to start is by checking out my free Get Lean Guide. Just need to add your email to access the report. That guide + the emails that follow will set you on the right trajectory.

  12. profile avatar
    Michelle Apr 14, 2012 - 14:34 #

    Very insightful. You certainly convinced me to try raw chococlate. I love the idea of dippin the beans in agave and freezing them!! I enjoyed reading this article!

  13. profile avatar
    M.P. Apr 15, 2012 - 22:46 #

    Also a HUGE benefit – the theobromine contained in a square of the (bad) dark chocolate has a cough-suppressant effect stronger than most prescription cough medications, due to its action on the vagus nerve. For myself and EVERYONE I’ve suggested it to, it’s completely eliminated that tickling sensation that makes you cough repeatedly when you have the cold or a flu. Article on the BBC – http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4032585.stm

    Good article Jessica!

  14. profile avatar
    Jay Apr 16, 2012 - 12:31 #

    How much and how often do you have to eat cacao for it to be effective?

    1. profile avatar
      Jessica Zack, HHC Apr 25, 2012 - 18:12 #

      Great question Jay! A 1-oz serving size of cacao beans is approximately 16 beans… David Wolfe, a renowned health guru and author of Naked Chocolate, swears by eating raw cacao and claims that he personally consumes 15-20 raw cacao beans daily.

      FYI: A 1-oz serving of raw cacao can provide you with over 20% of of the Recommended Daily Value of magnesium and a wealth of concentrated antioxidants…Also, in an ounce-by-ounce comparison, cacao provides higher antioxidant content than high-antioxidant foods such as blueberries, green tea and red wine… Need I say more?

      Even if you mange to only fit 1 sole serving of cacao into your weekly diet, then I think that’s fabulous. If you can fit 1 serving of this powerful superfood into your daily diet, then I think that’s even more fabulous!

  15. profile avatar
    Diana McCalla Apr 17, 2012 - 10:43 #

    When processed properly, dark chocolate has more antioxidants than any food known on the planet.  So it really doesn’t matter what the cocoa content is if the beans are not processed property. Commercial processing destroys most of the fragile antioxidants. The only way you can be sure you are getting the health benefits is to choose a chocolate that has been certified for the amount of antioxidants as well as the amount of flavonoids.  Also, choose a chocolate that has no processed sugars (even organic processed sugars!), no bad fats nor caffeine.

  16. profile avatar
    John Methew Apr 21, 2012 - 01:24 #

    I heard that chocolate can reduce high cholesterol level. Is it true ?

  17. profile avatar
    Diana McCalla Apr 23, 2012 - 10:50 #

    The chocolate has to have a high flavonol content to get the healthy benefits John. Just because raw chocolate, cacao nibs, cacao powder, is raw doesn’t mean it retains the flavonols once it reaches the consumer. There is more to the process than that. So the only way you can be sure it to choose a product that has the amount of antioxidants, as well as the amount of flavonols certified.

  18. profile avatar
    Heather Vargas May 22, 2012 - 08:43 #

    Wow, that is some great info! Thanks! I have a question, what if you are having a hard time consuming raw chocolate? Have any ideas to not make it so bitter to get used to it, but a healthy way?

    1. profile avatar
      Jessica Zack, HHC Jun 03, 2012 - 16:27 #

      That’s a great question, Heather!
      Here is an earlier post that was in response to someone asking that same question:

      I would recommend you try dipping the whole beans or nibs in honey or agave nectar and freeze them for a great snack! If dipping in a sweetener is still not sweet enough for your palate, your best bet is to throw some of the cacao powder into smoothies, protein drinks, etc. and you should be able to mask the bitterness pretty well. I tend to notice that the recognizable chocolate scent and taste is released more and more as I break the beans up.

      I hope that helps!

  19. profile avatar
    Janis Jun 21, 2012 - 23:15 #

    Thanks for the information about this super food. I already have some nibs, which were a birthday present from an enthusiast. I’m nibbling me nibs, now. My question, is this stuff any good for repairing damaged body parts, in particular, arthritic knee joints? Here’s hoping.

    1. profile avatar
      Ray-Kelly Aug 30, 2012 - 12:28 #

      I was wondering the samething, lol.

  20. profile avatar
    Ray-Kelly Aug 30, 2012 - 12:25 #

    Thank you Jessica, this is very valuable information. I drink a tasty Cacoa protien shake every morning or every other morning for breakfast. For those of you who are having a problem with its bitter taste, try this.

    1 scoop of Whey to Go Protein Powder
    1 serving of Cacoa Powder (2.5) tbsp). (Make sure that is 100% raw vegan organic Cacoa Powder).
    1 serving of Hemp Seed Powder (2 tbsp)
    1 serving of Wheat Germ (2 tbsp)
    1/8 teaspoon Cinnamon
    1 1/2 or 2 tbsp of Agave Nectar, preferably raw)
    1 banana
    1 tbsp of raw coconut oil with 8oz of water OR 8oz of Unsweetened Soymilk, Almond Milk, etc.
    I always add ice, I don’t like it too thick and it feels like two servings of goodness, even though it’s one.

    Blend all this together when you get up. You’ll love it, I do.

  21. profile avatar
    Ramon Oct 14, 2016 - 13:44 #

    Hi everyone I’m barely a beginner to this site but it feels good to be part of it… it seems like an excellent place to learn and communicate with experienced people about the facts for a healthier life. My question is if this brand of chocolate bars fits the suggested supplements about raw dark chocolate… I tried looking for reviews in the web and ingredients on the label.. but it doesn’t match some of the ingredients that you are suggesting… the brand is Endangered species natural dark chocolate with 88% cocoa… can someone help ? thanks in advance…

    1. profile avatar
      Kristin Rooke, CPT Oct 14, 2016 - 14:57 #

      Hi Ramon,

      That’s a great question! While the Endangered Species brand of chocolate is not made with raw cacao, it is still a really great choice. The 88% dark chocolate bar is a great source of a lot of minerals and antioxidants, and it’s relatively low in sugar. A general rule-of-thumb is, the higher the % of dark chocolate, the better! If you want to try a raw chocolate bar, you could try Righteously Raw or Lulu’s Chocolate. I’ve tried both of those brands, and they’re amazing.

      Hope that helps, and welcome to the BuiltLean community!

      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

  22. profile avatar
    RAMON Oct 17, 2016 - 12:30 #

    Hi Kristin, thank you very much for your help. I really appreciate it. I love this site.

  23. profile avatar
    Lorenzo Nov 07, 2016 - 21:20 #

    Hey my name is Lorenzo, well let me tell you I brought some raw Cacao from my Country the Dominican Republic, and I used it everyday on my Protein shake I Just love it.

    1. profile avatar
      Kristin Rooke, CPT Nov 07, 2016 - 23:10 #

      That’s awesome! Thanks for sharing! I’m sure that the raw cacao from your country is delicious.
      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

  24. profile avatar
    Dennis Miller. Dec 05, 2016 - 21:40 #

    Great info. but where can I buy raw chocolate? I live in East Tennessee zip code 37329

    1. profile avatar
      Kristin Dec 05, 2016 - 22:15 #

      Great question, Dennis. If there’s a Whole Foods or other natural food store in your area, you should definitely be able to find it there. Otherwise, I would recommend ordering raw chocolate online. A few great brands include Nativas Naturals, Healthworks, and Viva Naturals raw cacao powder. Hope that helps!
      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

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