I love cacao beans and eat them every day, blended in smoothies. My favourite smoothie is banana, carob, cinnamon, mesquite, with several cacao beans (all organic).
Googling for nutritional info on cacao in case it could help with inflammatory conditions led to this at TheSuperfoods.net:
The cacao bean is full of antioxidants, fat, carbohydrates, protein, polyphenols like flavanoids that are antioxidants, minerals like calcium, magnesium, sulfur, copper, iron, zinc and potassium, oleic acid which is a heart-healthy essential monounsaturated fat, fiber and vitamins E, B2, B1, B5, B3 and B9.
[The beans grow in a pod that weighs about 1 pound – containing half a dozen beans. Cacao trees grow in the Amazon Basic, Orinoco River Basin, Ghana, Philippines, Brazil, Papua New Guinea, Ecuador, Togo and a few Caribbean islands. Cacao is known as the Food of the Gods where it was first cultivated in the Americas.]
Both antioxidants and theobromine can improve blood flow, support healthy functioning of heart and reduce thickening of arterial walls and plaque build-up. Theobromine can also improve mental and physical well-being by stimulating central nervous system, dilating blood vessels, increasing energy levels and relaxing tense muscles.
Other benefits offer include reducing PMS and menopause symptoms. The levels of antioxidants in raw cacao are higher than that of green tea and red wine.
Fiber content in cacao can help digestion by increasing digestive enzyme production. Fiber content keeps you feeling full for longer. This controls appetite and helps promote weight loss.
Essential Fatty Acids such as oleic acid found in cacao can lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol levels. Oleic acid also possesses antioxidant properties and can fight free radicals.
It can strengthen cell membrane integrity, boost memory power, improve functioning of the heart, circulatory system and brain, increase energy levels, help with weight loss, reduce inflammatory conditions like arthritis, help to moisturize the skin and more.
Minerals especially magnesium found in raw cacao promotes heart health and is essential for proper brain functioning. Tryptophan and anandamide are other brain-boosting minerals found in cacao.
Vitamins found in raw cacao benefit the cardiovascular system. They have antioxidant benefits and promote longevity.
Those who have chocolate allergies must avoid eating cacao nibs or beans. Polyphenols and other active substances found in them could trigger side effects like migraines and other allergic reactions.
Cacao beans and cacao nibs have many nutrients that can offer multiple health benefits.
Some of these nutrients get reduced or destroyed when they undergo heating process and are combined with milk and sugar to make chocolate. Hence, eating raw, unprocessed cacao beans offer more health benefits than processed chocolate.