Since 1500 BC, people as diverse as the Olmecs, the Mayans, and the Incans have been harvesting cocoa beans for their nutritional and medicinal properties. By boiling the beans and skimming the yellowish fat that rose to the surface of the water, they gathered what we now know as cocoa butter, which helped relieve a variety of inflammatory diseases.
Today, thanks to the efficiency of cold-processing, we are able to amass enough cocoa butter to use to prevent and treat gout, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease, and to nourish our skin.
In this article, you will learn why cocoa butter is the best vegan fat source available in the Real Food diet and why its chemical structure makes it so effective for fighting inflammation and immune disorders.
What is Cocoa Butter?
Cocoa butter, sometimes called cacao butter, is a vegan fat source. Like cocoa powder, it is a product of cocoa beans. Unrefined cocoa butter has a light yellow tint and smells like chocolate. It is a solid at room temperature and melts just below the average human body temperature, between 93 and 101 degrees Fahrenheit.
This makes it easy to store and ideal for cooking and using in body lotions, providing a creamy texture for both uses. Cocoa butter does not go rancid quickly, so as a relatively stable saturated fat, it is safe to keep around the kitchen.
For hundreds of years, from ancient times through the Enlightenment, the “boil and skim method” was the only way to extract cocoa butter from cocoa beans, which made it inefficient for widespread use.
But in 1828, the Dutch confectioner Coenraad Van Hoouten invented a hydraulic press that more efficiently allowed for cocoa butter to be extracted from cocoa beans, which could then be added to cocoa powder to make chocolate bars or sold directly to the pharmaceutical industry for medicinal purposes.
The Difference With Pure Cocoa Butter
More sophisticated food processing techniques have been developed since Van Hoouten’s hydraulic press.
Today, quality and health-conscious consumers will want to source cold-pressed cocoa butter, which may be referred to as raw cocoa butter, unrefined cocoa butter, or pure cocoa butter. Cold processing means that the cocoa butter is produced using low or no heat, which in turn increases the likelihood that the nutrients inherent to the cocoa butter are retained for the consumer’s benefit.
Excessive heating can destroy the vitamins, trace minerals, and antioxidants that occur naturally in cocoa butter.
How (and Why) Your Skin Loves Cocoa Butter
Speaking of health benefits, cocoa butter’s high fat content, as well as its high antioxidants and vitamin E content, hydrates skin and helps it maintain elasticity.
Many people have found that cocoa butter:
- Reduces the appearance of scars, burns, or rashes
- Prevents dryness and peeling, including chapped lips
- Slows signs of aging
But not everything you read about cocoa butter turns out to be true…
The #1 Skin Myth of Cocoa Butter
While cocoa butter has been touted as a highly effective remedy for combating stretch marks, scientific research has disproved this tale.
A recent study gathered 210 women from two different Lebanese cities to test whether or not cocoa butter would improve their postpartum stretch marks.
There was no noticeable difference in the results of the women who receive the placebo versus the women who received cocoa butter.
While many women around the world anecdotally report using cocoa butter to improve the visibility of stretch marks, know that it may or may not work for you, or that other factors may be involved.
Let’s Eat: Cocoa Butter in Food Products
Eating cocoa butter is quite different than using it for skin advantages. Cocoa butter is mostly saturated fat and largely consists of stearic triglycerides, which have been shown to have no effect on blood cholesterol levels.
There is absolutely no direct link between the consumption of cocoa butter and the development of heart disease. In fact, research shows that cocoa consumption promotes heart health.
The benefits of ingesting cocoa butter include:
- Reduced inflammatory response: certain micro nutrients in cocoa, called polyphenols, enable it to be a good anti-inflammatory therapy for mild injuries and tissue damage.
- Improved cardiovascular health: similar to the point above, research has discovered that an increased consumption of cocoa products lowers cardiovascular disease (CVD)-related inflammation in healthy adults, and that cocoa has no noticeable impact on those already afflicted with CVD.
- Increased trace mineral intake: Cocoa contains important flavonoids, which are the naturally occurring plant pigments that endow fruits and vegetables with their health benefits for humans. From these, we get trace minerals, which support the blood system, hormonal functions, and many biochemical reactions.
- Added immune strength: the antioxidant properties of cocoa butter means that it stops lipid peroxidation, the process through which free radicals damage cells.
Cocoa Powder vs. Cocoa Butter – Antioxidant Value
It is true that cocoa butter has polyphenols and antioxidant value useful for your health, but cocoa powder—the other byproduct of the cocoa bean–will contain far more. If this is your main objective use cocoa powder instead.
However, we have a powerful method to incorporate both polyphenol rich cocoa powder and cocoa butter, which is replete with good saturated fats, at the same time.
Drink Your Fat: Cocoa Butter For Breakfast
Starting your day with a high quality beverage laced with saturated fats will provide you mental stamina and energy for your day, while helping you to avoid carbohydrates, hormone-ridden milk, and many other nutritional pitfalls of standard breakfasts.
If you are vegan, cocoa butter is an awesome way to ingest high quality calories with a nutritional punch. Cocoa butter is also keto and paleo friendly. Here are some instructions for a Super fat Elixir based on cocoa butter:
The Wild Superfat Elixir Base Template
- 1 tablespoon Wild Cocotropic Mushroom Mix
- 1 tablespoon Wild Chocolate Powder
- Dash of Wild Vanilla Powder
- 1/2 teaspoon organic cinnamon
- Additionally, you can add 1 scoop of Wild Whey or Wild Collagen after step 3 then pulse to blend.
- 1/2-1 teaspoon xylitol from maple (not corn) or:
- Maple syrup
Warning: honey and maple syrup will knock you out of ketosis/fasting.
- Coffee brewing vessel (French press, chemex, drip)
- Mason jar or mug
- Brew coffee using your preferred method.
- Place hot coffee in a blender with 1-2 tablespoons of MCT oil, 1-2 tablespoons of preferred butter choice, and any optional ingredients.
- Blend for 1 second, until frothy.
- If you prefer your beverage hot, drink it now. If not, proceed to next step.
How to Ice your Superfat Elixir:
- Place Elixir in the freezer for 1-2 minutes to cool it down.
- Remove it from the freezer.
- Add ice and give it a shake.
- Blending too aggressively. Blend or pulse in short bursts.
- Using coconut oil instead of MCT oil. Coconut oil leaves a coconut aftertaste and doesn’t have the same smooth consistency as MCT, which means coconut oil has trouble emulsifying. You can use it, but MCT works much better.
- Not using quality, fresh coffee beans. Wild Coffee beans are freshly roasted, single-origin, fair trade, and organic. They are ultra-premium and uber-fresh. Using quality coffee makes a HUGE difference in not only how your butter brew comes out, but also in how you’ll feel after you drink it.
There you have it: a drink full of super foods to build your day around.
Cocoa Butter Baking: Fat Bombs
If you like fasting in the morning or you don’t like drinks filled with lots of calories, fat bombs made with cocoa butter might be the way to go.
- 1/4 cup Wild MCT Oil (or coconut oil)
- 1/4 cup Wild Cocoa Butter
- 1/4 cup Wild Chocolate
- 2-4 tablespoons Maple Syrup, Honey, Xylitol, Palm Sugar or choice sweetener
- Optional: Wild Vanilla Powder (our fave), Wild Sea Salt (delicious)
- In saucepan heat all ingredients on low heat and whisk until a smooth consistency. Taste mixture and adjust ingredients to your desired tastes.
- Pour mixture into molds or a glass baking dish.
- Place in freezer for 1-2 hours.
- Remove and keep frozen or refrigerated.
Colin StuckertFounder/CEO, Wild Foods
- Coe, Sophie D. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996.
- Cocoa bean timeline: https://www.thoughtco.com/culture-of-the-cocoa-bean-1991768