Indeed, cocoa is at the heart of planet Earth’s favourite snack – chocolate. There is absolutely no doubt why chocolate remains the world’s most-spoken love language.
But according to the 18th-century Swedish botanist, Carl Linneaus, cocoa offers so much more hence the name Theobroma cacao or ‘food of the gods’ and aptly so.
His choice of name was based on the numerous nutritional and health benefits contained in the tropical plant, especially in the seeds, also known as cocoa beans.
Countless scientific studies have established cocoa is laden with dozens of nutrients and compounds which when consumed inures positively to one’s health and well-being.
To obtain the complete health and nutritional benefits of cocoa, nutrition experts recommend its regular consumption in dark chocolate or natural cocoa powder form.
Let’s now discover just 15 of the numerous benefits cocoa presents to its lovers.
1. Provides the most powerful dietary antioxidants
Scientific research has established that cocoa is very rich in dietary antioxidants. Cocoa powder is rich in theobromine, which helps to reduce inflammation and can protect you from conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Additional findings indicated that because of its antioxidant properties, cocoa offers neuron protection and enhances cognition and positive mood. It lowers immunoglobulin E release in allergic responses.
2. Reduces blood pressure
Cocoa flavanols have been found to lower blood pressure and arterial stiffness as much as some blood pressure medications. However, this is said to be as effective as the regular daily consumption of dark chocolate and unsweetened cocoa drink. Cocoa flavanols are suggested to clean and protect vital blood vessels and enhance blood circulation. “The positive impact cocoa flavanols have on our cardiovascular system, in particular, blood vessel function and blood pressure is undeniable,” according to a researcher, Professor Heiss.
3. Delays physical signs of ageing
Ageing is associated with a decline in the system. The aged are more susceptible to infection, poor responses to vaccination and increased incidence of autoreactivity. Research has proven that dark chocolates contain chemicals that help rejuvenate old cells, thus providing anti-ageing benefits and reducing the appearance of wrinkles.
4. Fights dental decay
Beyond keeping you younger, natural cocoa powder and dark chocolates are also said to be extremely beneficial to your dental health. New studies show that polyphenols-rich cocoa is highly effective at fighting cavities, plaque and tooth decay, perhaps even more than fluoride. Dark chocolate is a good source of polyphenols, a natural chemical, that can limit oral bacteria.
5. Dietary iron in cocoa helps fight anaemia
Iron deficiency is a common cause of low healthy red blood cells in the body, a condition referred to as anaemia. Cocoa is proven to be a dark horse in fighting iron deficiencies. Natural cacao powder and dark chocolate are known to contain antioxidants and a high concentration of iron necessary for the regular production of healthy red blood cells.
6. Possesses aphrodisiac effect
Aztec emperor, Montezuma, is credited to be one to have first drawn a link between cocoa and sexual desire. He was said to be a habitual consumer of cocoa to fan his romantic rendezvous. In recent times, however, scientistic findings have shown the aphrodisiac properties of cocoa, linked to some chemicals like dopamine, tryptophan and phenylethylamine. Cocoa may be excellent for overall sexual health as it increases dopamine levels, the chemical affecting the pleasure centres in the brain.
7. Prevents stroke by improving blood circulation
Various studies have shown regular cocoa intake increases heart health. As you may have already learnt by now, the antioxidants in raw cocoa powder and dark chocolate have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of clotting and increase blood circulation to the heart, thus lowering the risks of stroke, coronary heart disease and death from heart disease.
8. Helps fight stress
According to WebMD, those stress-induced chocolate cravings may be justified after all. A new study shows that eating dark chocolate may lower levels of stress hormones in people feeling stressed out. Researchers found that eating the equivalent of one average-sized dark chocolate candy bar (1.4 ounces) each day for two weeks reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol as well as the “fight-or-flight” hormones known as catecholamines in highly stressed people.
9. Helps reduce pains associated with menstrual periods
Primary Dysmenorrhea (PD) is defined as cramping pain in the lower abdomen, which occurs before or during menstruation without pelvic diseases. According to ClinicalTrials.gov, dark chocolate contains copper, which is used by the body to synthesize neurotransmitters called collagen and endorphins. Endorphin hormone is an analgesic and natural sedative to reduce pain intensity such as menstrual pain. Regular consumption of raw cocoa powder and dark chocolate is effective in the management of pains associated with menstrual periods.
10. Reduces risk of cancer
Polyphenol-rich cocoa Keeping in view the pleiotropic health benefits of cocoa, it may have the potential to be used for the prevention/treatment of allergies, cancers, oxidative injuries, inflammatory conditions, anxiety, hyperglycemia, and insulin resistance.
11. Boosts sense of wellbeing
12. Enhances mood
13. Great immune system booster
The immune system has a crucial function in keeping your body healthy as it maintains a fine balance between the elimination of invading pathogens and the maintenance of tolerance to healthy self-tissue. Natural cocoa powder has been established to contain such minerals as iron, selenium and zinc. These minerals help your body function and give your immune system a boost.
14. Enhances cognitive function
Several studies have suggested that increasing the intake of natural cocoa powder in your diet helps to improve your memory function, attention, and general cognition. The accumulated evidence from research has suggested that cocoa is beneficial for sustaining cognitive performance and improving measures of general cognitive abilities such as attention, memory and processing speed.
15. Boosts liver health
By now you’re fully aware the benefits of cocoa may have the potential to be used for the prevention/treatment of allergies, cancers, oxidative injuries, inflammatory conditions, anxiety, hyperglycemia, and insulin resistance. Another key benefit of cocoa is its positive effect in keeping a healthy liver, and indeed other organs. Laboratory studies have reported that dietary supplementation with cocoa or cocoa polyphenols can improve obesity and obesity-related comorbidities in preclinical models. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), one such comorbidity, is a risk factor for cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Dietary cocoa is known to ameliorate non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
While we recommend regular cocoa consumption for optimal health and well-being, it is necessary to do this alongside maintaining a healthy lifestyle including a balanced diet and regular physical exercise regime.