Cocoa powder Also known as the “Food of the Gods”, Cocoa was first cultivated in South Africa and then introduced in Europe in the 16th century. Currently over 4.8 million tons cocoa is produced worldwide every year.
Cocoa powder is an unsweetened product. Cocoa is used to manufacture cocoa powder. Cocoa powder is produced from roasted cocoa bean particles during the process of extraction of cocoa butter from beans. It majorly contains cocoa solids with around 10 to 15 percent cocoa butter. Quantity of butter is high in high quality brands cocoa powder.
Cocoa powder is different from instant cocoa mix. It comes in two basic varieties, Dutch process and Natural. The mix of both are also sold as “Dutch and natural blend”. Pure grounded cocoa powder is naturally acidic with pH 5.3 to 5.8 and its acidity affects flavor, solubility and its interaction with other ingredients. Natural cocoa powder looks reddish-brown in color and is more intensely flavored while Dutch process cocoa powder looks darker brown in color, with neutral pH of 6.8 to 8.1 and in a more mellow flavor with lesser antioxidant properties.
It is not only enjoyed by making chocolates from it but also provides several health benefits. It is a neuroprotector and rich with polyphenols, flavanols, theobromine and theophylline. Polyphenols and Flavanols, found in cocoa, are natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatory. Polyphenols especially improve blood flow, blood sugar level and cholesterol and thereby lower down blood pressure. It has iron, zinc, magnesium and selenium. Let’s take a look at a few amazing benefits of Cocoa powder.
Decrease the risk of Heart attack and Stroke:
Different studies showed that higher chocolate consumption linked with lower risk of heart diseases, stroke and death. It has been found that cocoa reduces bad cholesterol, improves blood flow and causes a blood thinning effect. These properties of cocoa make it beneficial for heart health with decreasing risk of heart attack, heart failure and stroke.
Brain Functions and Cocoa:
Polyphenols in cocoa improves brain function and blood flow in the brain as well. Flavanols additionally produce neurons and important molecules for brain function, also relax muscles of blood vessels and improve blood supply to the brain. Studies and the role of cocoa for the brain shows that it may have positive effects on neurodegenerative diseases. Thus, cocoa supports memory and cognition positively. Studies show it can give positive effects on diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Mood enhancer and Anti-depressant Cocoa:
Flavanols, caffeine content and serotonin — a natural mood stabilizer — formation from tryptophan by cocoa affects mood positively. One study discovered that taking high-polyphenol cocoa can improve calmness and contentment. Furthermore, data revealed that eating chocolate is linked with better psychological well-being and improved overall health.
Anti-diabetic effects of Flavanols:
Anti-inflammatory Flavanols improve insulin secretion, improves glucose metabolism by slowing down carbohydrate digestion and absorption in the gut and enhancing uptake of sugar from blood to muscle. Multiple studies showed that intake of flavanol-rich cocoa improves insulin sensitivity, blood sugar control, shows anti-inflammatory effects and thereby lower risk of type-2 diabetes. But, there are few studies finding no effect or limited or slightly bad control of diabetes. Though most studies indicate that cocoa helps positively in controlling and preventing diabetes.
Flavanols with Cancer-protective properties:
Cocoa components have antioxidant effects, protect cells from reactive molecules, induce cancer cell death and help prevent the spread of cancer cells. There are some animal studies showing positive effects in cancer reduction but cancer prevention in humans is not clear yet.
Weight control and Cocoa:
Cocoa reduces appetite and increases fat oxidation. It has been found in studies that people with more consumption of chocolate had low BMI compared to people who eat less. A weight loss study found that people who take more cocoa with low-carbohydrate diets everyday lose weight faster than people taking a regular diet. So cocoa may help in losing or maintaining weight.
Teeth and Skin Benefits:
Cocoa provides protection against dental cavities and gum diseases. It has components with antibacterial, anti-enzymatic and immune-stimulating properties. Its consumption provides sun protection, improves blood circulation, skin texture and hydration. It also provides immune-stimulating properties to skin and teeth.
Asthma and Bronchitis relief:
Asthma is a chronic disease, where airways are blocked and inflamed, so it can be life-threatening. Anti-asthmatic compounds theobromine and theophylline may help in Asthma and Bronchitis. Theobromine may help to relieve persistent coughing. Theophylline may help decrease inflammation, relaxe airways and dilate lungs.
IBS and Fatigue:
Anti-inflammatory polyphenols may reduce inflammation and help improve stool consistency thereby eases inflammatory bowel disease. Additionally polyphenols can reduce chronic fatigue and improve body functions.
There are many advantages of cocoa from many studies, but there are studies which don’t show the same positive effects of cocoa, so further studies are needed, specifically to know more about the effects of cocoa in chronic diseases.
Cocoa powder is very easy to introduce into your daily recipes without adding refined sugar or milk powder. It is good to use cocoa having high flavanol content and less processed. Make sure to buy a certified and organic product. You can also make cocoa powder at home if you can find cocoa pods or cocoa beans. Consumption of unsweetened cocoa in recommended amounts (2-2.5 grams) provides many benefits.
Cocoa powder contains many nutrients. It helps improve human health in different ways and enhances mental wellbeing when taken in an organic and unsweetened form. Avoid taking excessive amounts of cocoa powder and enjoy it with healthy recipes.