Cocoa beans are the fermented seeds of the cacao tree, whose Latin name is Theobroma cacao, which means the “Foods of the Gods”.
It is native to the Amazon region and as the meaning suggests, cocoa was historically considered a very important crop in Central and South America. In fact, it’s beans were so prized that the native tribes used them as a form of currency. The cacao tree stands about 12-25 feet tall and grows naturally in tropical climates.
The fruit of the cocoa tree is a pod full of sweet pulp enfolding a cluster of about 20-40 cacao seeds. Today, it is produced across the world, with about forty percent of the harvesting done in Cote d’Ivoire, along with Indonesia, Ghana, Brazil, Nigeria and Cameroon contributing to the overall production.
Along with its well established role in the manufacturing of chocolate,the healing and medicinal benefits of cocoa have been appreciated since the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations were ruling their continent.
Nutritional Value Of Cocoa
Cocoa is rich in minerals,such as iron,magnesium,calcium, phosphorous, copper and manganese.
It is also a good source of selenium,potassium,and zinc while providing the body with carbohydrates, protein, and dietary fiber. In addition to this, the cholesterol content in it is almost negligible. It contains cocoa butter, which is a mixture of monounsaturated fats like oleic acid and saturated fats, namely stearic acid and palmitic acid.
It is a lot more than just a guilty pleasure!
Health Benefits Of Cocoa
Cocoa offers anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, anti-carcinogenic and antioxidant qualities and has demonstrated positive effects by imparting numerous health benefits.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Flavonoid-rich cocoa aids in lowering helps in lowering the blood pressure,and improving the elasticity of blood vessels.
Research studies conducted on this subject have shown positive changes in the systolic and diastolic blood pressure as a consequence of consuming cocoa-based products instead of black and green tea.
Full Of Antioxidants
A study has made it evident that cocoa exhibits higher antioxidant activity than against black tea,green tea,green tea and red wine.
Antioxidants helps to neutralize the oxygen-based free radicals that are present in the body. In addition to this, it is abundant in phenolic phytochemicals and possesses a high amount of flavonoids as well.
Maintain Healthy Brain
Scientists have suggested that flavonol-rich cocoa may extend its beneficial effects to maintaining a healthy brain.These neuro-protective benefits could also have favorable effects on learning and memory functions. The findings have advocated that the consumption of cocoa-based products enhances the flow of blood to the brain and they have provided evidence of the therapeutic potential for curing vascular disorders.
Reduces Bad Cholesterol
A study has shown that cocoa has hypoglycemic and hypocholesterolemic effects on both glucose and cholesterol levels, respectively.
A diet containing has also shown a reduction in triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and glucose level. It has also demonstrated a noteworthy rise in the levels of healthy HDL cholesterol in the test subjects.
Helps People With Diabetes
The consumption of cocoa has been shown to be effective in improving insulin resistance and glucose metabolism.This, in turn, helps in regulating sugar levels in the body.
Aid In Having Bronchial Asthma
Cocoa beans contain xanthine and theophylline which aid in relaxing bronchial spasms and opening constricted bronchial tubes. This facilitates an easy flow of air and is valuable in curing various allergies including asthma and shortness of breath. Its consumption therefore helps in providing relief from bronchial asthma.
Helps The Process Of Wound Healing
Cocoa extracts have been trusted for their therapeutic and wound-healing properties in the manufacturing of natural medicinal products. The extracts help in preventing the development of various kinds of infections in the body.
Along with the appropriate medication, it has also been considered helpful in eradicating Helicobacter pylori bacteria from the body.
A study has shown the potential benefits of this great dark chocolate powder, in preventing high-fat diet-induced obesity. Its intake helps in modulating lipid metabolism and reducing the synthesis and transport of fatty acids. It has also demonstrated an improvement in therm-genesis, the mechanism of heat production in white adipose tissues and the liver.
It helps in preventing the formation of fatal blood clots,which can lead to stroke or cardiac failure. Blood platelets play an important role in cardiovascular disorders.
It’s antioxidant properties and help in protecting the cells from damage while strengthening the heart.
Consuming cocoa has shown antidepressant effects on certain physiological processes. Studies have shown that cocoa flavonols help to enhance mood, combat depression and promote improved cognitive activities during persistent mental exertion.
The presence of the neurochemical phenylethylamine in it, also helps in enhancing feelings of contentment and promoting aphrodisiac effects.
Studies have demonstrated that the consumption of cocoa husk exerts therapeutic effects in treating chronic constipation and bowel function diseases.
As per the study done on pediatric patients, consumption of fiber-rich cocoa products resulted in faster colon, rectal and intestinal transit times.
It has also demonstrated beneficial effects in inhibiting the growth of cancer cells without effecting the growth of normal healthy cells.These healing effects have proven extremely valuable in the treatment of various types of cancer, including colon and prostate cancer.
Research studies have revealed that cocoa is quite valuable in copper substitution therapy, and has resulted in significant improvements in the hemoglobin level, leucocyte count, and copper content in such patients.
According to the findings,cocoa is considered valuable as a copper-rich component to be included in the diet to maintain normal levels of copper as well as a remedy for treating copper deficiency in such conditions.
It helps in preventing and treating the diseases caused due to copper deficiency in the body such as anemia,neutropenia and leukopenia.
The presence of major flavonols like epicatechin and catechin in cocoa has shown beneficial effects in treating Alchaimer’s disease.
An investigative research study has confirmed that the regular consumption of cocoa products may prove beneficial in preventing the adverse effects caused due to a diet lacking in magnesium for an extended period of time.
Culinary Favorite Ingredient
This golden powder has been treasured worldwide for its usage in the manufacturing of chocolate and other sweet delicacies. The beans are roasted, husked, ground and, depending on the desired product, sweetened and flavored to produce chocolate.
Several types of chocolate are produced from cocoa beans, including unsweetened chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate,milk and white chocolate.
Word Of Caution
It is a source of caffeine which can lead to various side effects such as increased urination, sleeplessness, and irregular heartbeat.
It may also worsen the condition of gastro-esophaegeal reflux disease and it is advised to be avoided prior to surgeries to avoid any interference with blood sugar control.
Cocoa can cause allergic reactions to those who possess a sensitivity towards it. Allergies include skin reactions, migraine headaches,digestive discomfort like gas and nausea.
Caffeine may influence the effects of certain medications prescribed before the diagnostic test that are associated with the heart.
It is generally advised to avoid caffeine-rich beverages or foods before such cardiac examinations. It may interact with certain medications including clozaril, dipyridamole, ergotamine, phenylpropanolamine and theophylline and influence their effects on the body.
In addition to this, cocoa might also interact with the drugs for asthma, depression and diabetes.
Consult your doctor before adding a new type of food, especially one with so many unique compounds, into your diet.
If you are on the safe side,then enjoy some chocolate! A guilt-free, heavenly, flavorful and beneficial zip of cocoa is good for everyone!