Cocoa beans are 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 as a very important crop in Central and South America.
In fact, the beans were so prized – native tribes used them as a form of a currency.
If you didn’t know, cacao tree can grow from 12 to 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 all across the world with about 40 % of the harvesting done in Cote d’Ivoire, followed by Indonesia, Ghana, Brazil, Nigeria and Cameroon – all contributing to the overall cocoa production.
Along with its well established role in manufacturing of chocolate, the healing and medicinal benefits of cocoa have been appreciated since ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations were ruling their continent.
Nutritional Value Of Cocoa
This magical bean 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.
You know – It is a lot more than just a guilty pleasure!
Health Benefits Of The Cocoa Bean
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, helps in lowering the blood pressure and improving elasticity of blood vessels.
Full Of Antioxidants
A study has made it evident that cocoa exhibits higher antioxidant activity than black tea, green tea and red wine.
Antioxidants helps to neutralize the oxygen-based free radicals present in the body. In addition, it is abundant in phenolic phytochemicals and possess 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 as well.
Findings have advocated that, consumption of cocoa-based products enhance the flow of blood to the brain, and they have also provided evidence of therapeutic potential for curing many 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 cocoa 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
Consumption of cocoa has been shown to be effective in improving insulin resistance and glucose metabolism.This in turn, helps regulating sugar levels within 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.
Therefore, its consumption helps providing relief from bronchial asthma.
Helps The Process Of Wound Healing
Cocoa extracts have been trusted for their therapeutic and wound-healing properties in manufacturing natural and medicinal products.
These extracts help in preventing development of various kinds of body infections.
Along with appropriate medication, it has also been considered very helpful in eradicating Helicobacter pylori bacteria from the body.
It Can Decrease Obesity
A study has shown the potential benefits of this great dark chocolate powder in preventing high-fat and diet-induced obesity.
It helps modulating lipid metabolism and reducing the synthesis and transport of fatty acids.
It has also demonstrated improvements in therm-genesis : the mechanism of heat production in white adipose tissues and the liver.
Promotes Heart Health
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 has antioxidant properties and helps in protecting the cells from damage while strengthening the heart.
Consuming cocoa has shown antidepressant effects on certain physiological processes.
Studies have shown that flavonol presence help to enhance mood, combat depression and promote improved cognitive activities during persistent mental exertion.
The presence of the neurochemical phenylethylamine 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 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 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 a diet, in order to maintain normal levels of copper, as well as a remedy for treating copper deficiency in such conditions.
It helps in prevention and treatment of diseases caused due to copper deficiency such as anemia, neutropenia and leukopenia.
Presence of major flavonols like epicatechin and catechin in cocoa has shown beneficial effects in treating Alchaimer’s disease.
Regulates Magnesium Deficiency
An investigative research study has confirmed that regular consumption of cocoa products, may prove being 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 manufacturing chocolate and other sweet delicacies.
The cocoa 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 avoid it prior surgery not to have any interference with blood sugar control.
Cocoa may cause allergic reactions to those who possess a sensitivity towards it.
- skin reactions
- migraine headaches
- digestive discomfort like gas and nausea
Caffeine may influence the effects of certain medications prescribed before any diagnostic test 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 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.
But, if you are “walking” on the safe side – you can most certainly enjoy some of this magical drink.
A guilt-free, heavenly, flavorful and beneficial zip of cocoa is good for everyone!
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