Advice Article

Raw Cacao Powder: Good or Evil

Happy Tuesday everyone! I haven’t done a Tip Tuesday in a while, but today I have an interesting topic to address: the benefits and dangers of raw cacao powder.

I discovered cacao powder last December and thought it was amazing. I added it to smoothies to make ‘chocolate smoothies’ or chocolate nana ice-cream and it tastes amazing. Most people I gave samples to had no idea it wasn’t “real” ice-cream. I also started adding it to homemade baked goods such as cakes, brownies, cookies, and so much more. It’s the perfect ‘chocolate not chocolate’ to add to your foods. I also read that it’s awesome for you and is a great anti-oxidant. And not to mention way better than cocoa, which is actually just processed cacao powder. You can read my previous post about the two here.

But anyways, I recently saw someone post about the dangers of cacao powder. I was shocked and didn’t believe it. How can this thing that comes from a plant be bad for you? I am a plant based vegan after all, so everything that comes from a plant has to be good.. right?

Wrong. After hearing that cacao powder maybe isn’t the best choice for you to eat, I can now understand how people who eat animal by-products feel when people tell them that those things aren’t healthy for them. It’s like being told that your whole life is a lie. What do you mean milk isn’t good for your bones? You know what I mean? So that’s how I felt when I heard that cacao powder is bad for you.

I wanted to believe it was a lie; so badly, because that means I could keep eating it and pretend I didn’t know any different. But I don’t like to live in ignorance. So I did my research, and now I’m sharing it with you. (Just in case you wanted to know)

lsf009-live-superfoods-organic-ecuadorian-cacao-powder-16ozCacao powder comes from the cacao bean. The raw Cacao pods are opened up, the seeds are removed, and they undergo a natural fermentation and drying process that takes up to 2 weeks and is made into the cacao powder that we eat. The Cacao bean is a cousin to the Coffee Bean. You all know what coffee is right? Highly addictive and a substance to keep you awake.

Basically what people are saying is that the substance is harmfully addictive and can cause a variety of negative health effects. 

“Below are just a few of the theories circulating about the negative side effects of this raw food. Be aware that no solid scientific evidence exists to substantiate or debunk any of the claims, so if you are worried about the effects of raw cacao in your diet, it’s a good idea to discuss your concerns with a medical or nutritional professional. He or she may have access to additional research or information that is helpful to share.”

  • Cacao may be an extremely addictive substance.
  • Much like coffee, raw cacao acts as a stimulant, which at the least can negatively affect sleep and at worst may agitate kidneys.
  • Some believe regular, long-term consumption of raw cacao may lead to a variety of health conditions such as depression, mood swings, nightmares, and paranoia.
  • In high doses, cacao may act as a hallucinogen.
  • Frequent consumption may cause a toxic buildup in the liver and in the blood over time.

Source: http://vegetarian.lovetoknow.com/Raw_Cacao_Side_Effects

There’s also this video right here where the man who kind of introduced Cacao into the raw food market says his opinion and thoughts on Cacao Powder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wArks4mczm4

And here’s one more link that talks about the negative effects of cacao powder: http://stirringchange.com/raw-cacao-hype-vs-science/

Again, I’m not positive on any of these things, I just thought I’d put it out there for everyone to decide for themselves 🙂 I have easily made the switch to Carob Powder which I have tried in the past and it’s amazing and tastes almost identical. There are no negative effects thus far that I am aware of from Carob Powder so I will continued to use this instead, just to be safe.

Healthy-Eating-and-Living-Carob-Powder-Mandy-KingOH, also, dogs can’t have chocolate (cocoa or cacao) but people have said that dogs can have carob because it’s not related to the cacao bean. Read more about it here, or do some research yourself.

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24 Comments

  • Reply
    Greg
    July 26, 2015 at 11:07 pm

    I don’t know where the idea that raw cacao is “super toxic” came from within the vegan community. There have been literally no studies by anyone to prove that it is toxic one way or another, and any substance can be toxic if you intake to much of it. If a person drinks to much water they can get poisoned and die, for instance.

    I love this site, but the link in your post (http://vegetarian.lovetoknow.com/Raw_Cacao_Side_Effects) is filled with misinformed information. The link says that natives from regions where cacao grows have only used it for ceremonial and medicinal purposes. This is highly untrue. Many people of Latin America consume fresh cacoa as part of a daily eating regimen.

    The Kuna people of panama drink 4 glasses of raw cacao (from the bean) a day, mixed with bananas for natural sweetener. They have the lowest heart disease rates in the world, and outrageously low cancer rates. The flavanoids found in cacoa are extremely beneficial. Nobody in their community is getting sick from the so called toxins that are referenced by many within the raw vegan community. Read this article for more information:

    http://www.medsci.org/press/cocoa.html

    • Reply
      Marilyn Edwards
      January 31, 2016 at 7:03 am

      Thanks for this link Greg. I had heard about these cocao drinking peoples and this article is a good starting point for me to do research. I dig into Pubmed for this kind of thing. Having consumed raw cacao for years with no ill effects, I wonder. However, I have also seen people over consume it and who very addicted to it. It seems like it’s the difference between drinking a cup or two of coffee a day versus 15 cups a day, moderation being the key.

    • Reply
      nat
      April 11, 2016 at 3:37 am

      that link says cocoa which is different than cacao?

  • Reply
    Sandy Campbell
    December 22, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    I’ve been mixing unsweetened organic cacao powder with Bob’s Red Mill oat bran for my breakfast “porridge” for months, but I found out about raw cacao powder just last week. I was about to order a couple of pounds of Healthworks Raw Certified Organic Cacao Powder from Amazon until I read a 1-star review which said to “avoid raw cacao at ALL COSTS!”

    I did a little digging and discovered all the horror stories concerning raw cacao toxicity floating around the web. They all seem to quote the same unverified sources (almost word for word), especially the bit about animals not eating raw cacao beans and dying if they do.

    I began to suspect that these reports were all written by a small group of people who are very susceptible to suggestions, especially when it comes to the toxicity of different foods. I imagine they’re probably the same people who all think they’re allergic to gluten and can’t drink milk.

    Your Mindfully Bliss report is a lot more level headed, and I’m going to try some raw cacao powder for myself. If I wind up in the hospital suffering from liver damage, insomnia and an incurable addiction to cacao so bad that I’m mainlining it, I’ll report back.

    • Reply
      SunnySky
      May 12, 2016 at 10:03 pm

      Kudos, Sandy!
      Seriously.
      Thumbs up!!

  • Reply
    loretta
    January 25, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    sooo… is cacao bad for you? i just started putting it in my smoothie few weeks ago and i LOVE it. it is almost addictive….

  • Reply
    Lala
    February 2, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    I have it everyday too, for the past 2 months or so. I also drink a buttload of coffee and I haven’t noticed any of these wonderful effects people in the raw food community have promised (almost word for word)! The thing is, people struggle to moderate themselves – we need a structure, a set of rules, something to keep us accountable. Whether that’s Rawtill4, HLCF or any other diet, complete with ritual and routine, we need to believe that our way is the right way. No diet or lifestyle can remove your human condition, unfortunately. And that condition doesn’t ‘do’ moderation at all.

    • Reply
      Turtle
      February 22, 2016 at 4:44 am

      “I also drink a buttload of coffee”

      I’m curious what kind of coffee. Low quality coffee will only give you the jitters, make you crash, and just want more and more coffee. Although it’s become a fad lately, putting butter/ghee in your coffee (super high quality) is a great way to give it some legs, without any of the commonly cited negative effects of drinking coffee. I have a single cup of the stuff every morning and never feel like I want any more. I also don’t get crashes or jitters from the coffee either.

      I also drink a cup of raw, organic, fair trade cacao with about two heaping tablespoons of the powder. I blend it with hemp hearts, high quality coconut oil, and a little butter. I’ve been doing this for years and haven’t noticed any addiction problems. But, like I said I rarely have more than on cup a day. I’ve heard it before and I’m sure I’ll hear it again. Like the example about water… it’s all about moderation and balance.

  • Reply
    David Beachem
    February 10, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    I have to agree with Sandy Campbell; these new cacao bashers seem a little suspect. I watched the video featuring Jeremy Safron. And though I’m sure he didn’t mean to, he seemed to imply that he introduced raw cacao to the world. Okay, maybe I inferred that. But he did go on to compare cacao to alcohol. He described it as a “party food” that was harmful if overdone. Then he talked about the addictive properties of cacao. I’ve used cacao ( 2 tablespoons in smoothies daily) for long periods of time and then stopped with no cravings or mood swings or emotional eruption. ( I should note that I use cacao nibs; small peppercorn-sized chunks of the bean, which as a powder would probably amount to little more than half the measure of nibs) He talks about doing “scientific research” with people, but this seems to be no more than collecting anecdotes. His partner in the video actually describes cacao as a “recreational drug” and Jeremy agrees. The “co-host” follows up with a comment about the antioxidants and other nutrients in cacao and Jeremy answers: “From my experience of it it doesn’t seem that nutrient dense at all.” He calls cacao carcinogenic and on, and on. All the while not quoting one reference, one study, one expert or anything. I’m not saying he’s fabricating, I have no idea. But I can’t say I learned a thing in those fifteen minutes.

    • Reply
      Blair
      February 10, 2016 at 6:54 pm

      Oh crap only 2tsp? I’ve been drinking 10tsp cacao powder per day. Which equals to about two glass of smoothies. I love it. And can’t stop drinking it. It is almost addictive.

      • Reply
        David Beachem
        February 12, 2016 at 11:40 am

        “Almost addictive”? I would be interested in knowing how long you’ve used that much cacao and if you’ve experienced any negative effects. The widely differing opinions on this is mind blowing. I was just on a site, http://www.secrets-of-longevity-in-humans.com/raw-cacao-benefits.html. They list studies and analyses and references. While the cacao bashing sites, like this one say things such as “Some believe cacao may…” and “…frequent consumption of cacao may…”. Where are the studies? Where’s the analysis?

  • Reply
    Graeme
    February 18, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    “ConsumerLab, Natural News Labs both confirm high levels of toxic cadmium in popular cacao powders”

    Link below
    http://www.naturalnews.com/045545_cacao_powder_cadmium_lab_testing_results.html

    What are your thoughts on these findings?

  • Reply
    Sonya
    March 3, 2016 at 11:01 am

    I have had a tbsp of raw cacao powder in my smoothies for two years now, with no side effects that I am aware of. Recently, I started putting two tbsp in my smoothie, and also adding cacao nibs. Lately, I have not been able to sleep, horrible insomnia. I have not been able to figure it out until now. I know for sure that it is the cacao that is keeping me up. I literally am sleeping 2-3 hours a night. I will cut back and hopefully things will go back to normal. I would like to do more research on if cacao is indeed toxic. I just can’t imagine with it’s popularity that more people wouldn’t be more aware of this.

  • Reply
    fran
    March 25, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    I bought a bag of cacao nibs recently and started adding 2 Tablespoons to my daily smoothie. After several weeks of consuming them I started not sleeping at all and was extremely itchy. It was frightening! There was no rash accompanying the itch. After racking my brain as to what I had changed in my diet, I realized it was the cacao nibs. I stopped the next day and threw them away. I then had routine annual blood work done approximately two weeks after stopping the cacao. To my surprise, the doctors office called me for much more testing because my liver enzymes were very elevated. In the meantime, before my liver ultrasound and extra blood work, I decided to do as much of a detox as possible. Thankfully, all of my results came back to normal. This stuff is dangerous and the labeling on it should state that it is.

  • Reply
    Amanda
    May 18, 2016 at 5:21 am

    I was warned (by a food scientist) that raw cacao can contain a dangerous mould, which is killed during the cocoa heating process. Has anyone heard of this or have any info about it?

  • Reply
    Mimi Juliano
    June 1, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    To premise my story, I have always been prone to occasional anxiety. I started using Cacao powder in my coffee- regular and decaf, about 8 months ago. I was loving my homemade, natural mocha lattes. My first symptoms were headaches and frequent urination- I mean like every 10 minutes at night. So unbelievably uncomfortable. Pressure in my bladder literally 5- 10 minutes after I just went. I went to Urologist- all tests negative. Went to neurologist and had CT brain scan- negative. Two months ago I was taken to the hospital by ambulance with 179 heart rate. I went into afib. I was in ICU for 2 days. Never happened before. I was still experiencing the urination frequency when i got there. After being on IV fluids for 2 days, and using the heart med- Covert in my drip, they were able to bring me back to a normal sinus rhythm. All symptoms went away. I followed up with a cardiologist- one of the best here in NY- all tests negative. I did research and thought it was my BNP levels. Last night my friends took me to emergency with similar symptoms ( Chest pressure, racing, headache, alight nausea and the frequency of urination.) I was scare sh_ _ once again. I was not in fib and all test came back negative. I reported that headaches again and they gave me another CT scan of my brain. I came home and slept and started trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me. I googled Cacao powder and side effects and came upon all these articles. I’m throwing out the addictive cacao powder and going to buy the carob powder. Praying that this natural food that I thought could only be good for me caused all the problems. I will report back. Thanks so much for this. You saved me not only physically but mentally. I had a suspicion that it could be the cacao but I fluffed it off- because it’s a good antioxidant and natural.” BS!

  • Reply
    Alex
    August 21, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    After reading all the benefits I decided to try cacoa powder. I bought some and I added just 2 tbsp to my meal replacement drink. It tasted good I liked it. Half hour later I started feeling anxious and sort of jittery. I couldn’t stop moving, I was slightly dizzy and nauseous. I decided to look up more and found out bad things about cacoa powder. Only tried it once and never again. It’s not my drink either. Without the cacoa im perfectly fine.

  • Reply
    Sihoon
    September 3, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    Wow i am very surprised of this
    I just started taking cacao nibs but going to
    Throw all away all negative effects the possibility of harmful
    Hope this article and comment spread out to world and save people

  • Reply
    Ross
    September 13, 2016 at 6:52 am

    Wow… what is with all of these obviously fake posts that all sound so similar… “almost addictive” “I just started… cacao powder/nibs…” suddenly experiencing all these side effects… geez, this is almost as bad as when scientologists go into comments sections and pretend to be objective while trying to discredit someone. Yuck.

  • Reply
    holly
    September 25, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    I take one tsp cacao just to help my breathing and other health related problems. I find you don’t need that much to get the desired result. Remember moderation…. you don’t want to overload your liver and kidneys with the toxins that come with it too. There was an old saying that goes something like this… under every beautiful flower is a serpent’s tail… When I think of cacao I think of this saying.

  • Reply
    Hill
    November 1, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    I have been eating cacao nibs with powdered cacao in coconut milk sweetened with raw honey. none after 3pm. I sleep well
    and have wonderful positive moods. Using raw cacao for at least 6 mos. Addiction? sounds silly and suspect. Pharmaceutical trolls might be the source.

  • Reply
    Heather
    November 29, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    I have been using cacao nibs i my smoothie for about 5 months and occasionally the powder, I have no symptoms at all. I have a mitro prolapse and used to suffer from PVC’s the cacao powder or nibs haven’t caused any, in fact, I think they have helped those PVC’s dissipate. I plan to go to the doc in December for physical, she will perform blood work, we shall see.

  • Reply
    victoria langan
    December 17, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    Are any of the comments here from Peruvians? Well, My grandma would boil the dried cacao and we would have some after dinner. Don’t blame the cacao, Perhaps it is not processed properly in this country. Just because someone is scientist or someone that you think is reputable, doesn’t make their answers right. They told me that the tap water was safe to drink. 🙂

  • Reply
    Sophie
    February 28, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    I think it depends on the individual and I would be very careful as the consequences could be dreadful. I am one of the unfortunate who cannot consume raw cacao without experiencing extreme negative emotional and mental side effects. I’ve always been sporty, healthy and nutritionally mindful and when I hit 40 I started eating alot more plant based foods. But strangely after a few months I’d changed from a fundamentally happy soul to an emotional and mental wreck. My husband asked me to double check it wasn’t something in my new “healthy” eating. I snapped back not to be ridiculous but secretly decided I’d better look into it. A short while earlier I’d started adding a teaspoon of raw cacao powder in my breakfast spinach smoothie. After a little while I found I craved another smoothie after lunch and sometimes after tea too. I thought this a bit strange and digging a bit deeper I finally found the interview with Jeremy Safron with his findings and decided to try removing it from my diet. Within a couple of days I was back to my normal happy self. After a year I tried again and ate some health bars with small amounts of it in. After 10 days I was craving the bars all the time, having nightmares, mood swings, experiencing anger and felt close to a meltdown. Reluctantly accepting it might be the “Cracao” I once again removed it from my diet and thankfully bounced back within a few days without having damaged any relationships beyond repair. I personally don’t know anyone else who has experienced such a strong reaction to it and suspect I’m in the minority but I will never experiment with it again. I now add yummy Maca powder to my spinach smoothies instead!

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