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It’s time to think beyond the chocolate bar to learn everything the cacao plant has to offer.

By Laura Fisher
April 06, 2021
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For us chocolate lovers, there's nothing better than unwrapping a new bar of that bittersweet goodness, ready to meet our cravings, comfort us, and be part of a decadent daily ritual. But did you know that through processing our treats, the chocolate industry wastes up to 70 percent of the cacao plant? While we're not about to give up our sweet indulgences, what if there was a way to use some of the other parts of the cacao plant and benefit both farmers and the environment? What's more, what if we told you that consuming this formerly discarded byproduct could have some serious health benefits? 

Meet cacao water: The antioxidant-packed beverage that's on the verge of becoming a major wellness trend, and for good reason. We tapped Molly Knauer, MS, RD, founder of Molly's Best, to get the low down on the health benefits of this buzzy new superfood beverage. 

What Is Cacao Water? 

Cacao water is made from one of the underused, underrated products of the cacao plant—the cacao fruit. Cacao fruit is the white, fleshy part that surrounds the cacao bean (aka the part that's used to make chocolate). While chocolatiers usually just go for the bean and discard the rest, the fruit has many vitamins and minerals that are usually put to waste. 

If you're thinking cacao water tastes like a version of chocolate milk, you'll be surprised to learn that the refreshing bevvie actually tastes more like a mellow lemonade with a hint of vanilla. It's a unique flavor that's hard to describe, but there's a definite refreshing tang to it, and something you'll want to be sipping on a hot day. 

cacao-water: cacao beans and cacao water
Credit: Getty Images

What Are the Health Benefits of Cacao Water? 

The cacao plant is an incredibly healthy plant, even though we typically just associate it with not-so-healthy sweet treats. As Knauer explains, "Cacao is a true superfood containing antioxidants, electrolytes crucial for proper hydration, and dietary fiber known to aid in gut health. Its high antioxidant count has many beneficial effects on cardiovascular health and immunity." 

Cacao water also packs some serious hydration benefits. "Due to its natural electrolytes potassium and magnesium, cacao water hydrates more effectively than plain water," says Knauer. "Cacao water contains 163 milligrams potassium and 14 milligrams of magnesium, which is 4 percent of the daily value. These essential electrolytes are responsible for repairing the body and keeping it in top physical condition." Think of cacao water as coconut water taken to the next level: Natural hydration plus a serious punch of antioxidants. It's an excellent replacement for sugary sports drinks after a hard workout or on a hot day. 

What Exactly are Antioxidants? 

"Antioxidants are molecules that I like to think of as little Pac-men in our bodies, fighting free radicals," says Knauer. "Free radicals cause premature degeneration of cells in our body that can lead to chronic disease. They're unstable compounds, and antioxidants neutralize and kill them to keep our body's systems healthy and efficient. Antioxidants can improve cardiovascular health, boost immunity, and even strengthen the look and feel of our skin to keep us looking and feeling younger and more vibrant." Cacao water is an antioxidant powerhouse: One 10.5 oz bottle of cacao water has twice as many antioxidants as 100 grams of blueberries! 

Cacao Water Is Also Good for the Planet 

Chocolate will always hold a special place in our hearts, but it's worth noting that the chocolate industry wastes 70 percent of the cacao plant, extracting just the beans and throwing out the rest. Cacao water can help solve this problem, and companies that make it, such as direct-to consumer Blue Stripes, are on a mission to make the chocolate industry more sustainable. Using all parts of the cacao fruit also means that cacao farmers are able to get more for their crop, supporting an equitable compensation for these hard-working producers. Products like cacao water can boost health and wellness of consumers, support local economies of farmers, and contribute to global sustainability efforts. And there's chocolate involved? We'll call that a win. 

Blue Stripes, founded by chocolatier mastermind Oded Brenner, is the first to market with this innovative product. However, there will surely be many to follow, so keep your eyes peeled for cacao water at retailers near you if you're looking to jump on the cacao water bandwagon.