Cocoa Powder: 10 Health and Nutrition Benefits
Cocoa is thought to have first been used by the Maya civilization of Central America
Cocoa powder is made by crushing cocoa beans and removing the fat or cocoa butter. Today, cocoa is most famous for its role in chocolate production. However, modern research has revealed that it does indeed contain important compounds that can benefit your health.
Here are 11 health and nutrition benefits of cocoa powder:
Rich in Polyphenols That Provide Several Health Benefits, polyphenols are naturally occurring antioxidants found in foods like fruits, vegetables, tea, chocolate and wine. They have been linked to numerous health benefits, including reduced inflammation, better blood flow, lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol and blood sugar levels
May Reduce High Blood Pressure by Improving Nitric Oxide Levels, cocoa both in its powdered form and in the form of dark chocolate, may be able to help lower blood pressure (2Trusted Source). This effect was first noted in the cocoa-drinking island people of Central America, who had much lower blood pressure than their non-cocoa-drinking mainland relatives.
May Lower Your Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke, in addition to lowering blood pressure, it appears that cocoa has other properties that may reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke (1Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).
Flavanol-rich cocoa improves the level of nitric oxide in your blood, which relaxes and dilates your arteries and blood vessels and improves blood flow
Polyphenols Improve Blood Flow to Your Brain and Brain Function, several studies have found that polyphenols, such as those in cocoa, may reduce your risk of neurodegenerative diseases by improving brain function and blood flow. Flavanols can cross the blood-brain barrier and are involved in the biochemical pathways that produce neurons and important molecules for the function of your brain.
May Improve Mood and Symptoms of Depression by Various Means, In addition to cocoa’s positive impact on age-related mental degeneration, its effect on the brain may also improve mood and symptoms of depression. The positive effects on mood may be due to cocoa’s flavanols, the conversion of tryptophan to the natural mood stabilizer serotonin, its caffeine content or simply the sensory pleasure of eating chocolate
Flavanols May Improve Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes, though over consumption of chocolate is certainly not good for blood sugar control, cocoa does, in fact, have some anti-diabetic effects. Test-tube studies indicate that cocoa flavanols can slow down carbohydrate digestion and absorption in the gut, improve insulin secretion, reduce inflammation and stimulate the uptake of sugar out of the blood into the muscle
May Aid Weight Control in Many Surprising Ways, Somewhat paradoxically, cocoa intake, even in the form of chocolate, may help you control your weight. It’s thought that cocoa may help by regulating the use of energy, reducing appetite and inflammation and increasing fat oxidation and feelings of fullness
May Have Cancer-Protective Properties, Flavanols in fruits, vegetables and other foods have attracted a great deal of interest due to their cancer-protective properties, low toxicity and few adverse side effects. Cocoa has the highest concentration of flavanols out of all foods per weight and can significantly contribute to their amount in your diet
Theobromine and Theophylline Contents May Help People With Asthma, Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes obstruction and inflammation of the airways and can be life-threatening. It’s thought that cocoa may be beneficial for people with asthma, as it contains anti-asthmatic compounds, such as theobromine and theophylline.
Antibacterial and Immune-Stimulating Properties May Benefit Your Teeth and Skin, several studies have explored the protective effects of cocoa against dental cavities and gum disease. Cocoa contains many compounds that have antibacterial, anti-enzymatic and immune-stimulating properties that may contribute to its oral health effects.