Ever heard about the Maya civilization of Central America? Yes, that was the civilization that is known to have found and used cocoa. After that, all that is known is that Europe got cocoa from the Spanish conquerors back in the 16th century and from there it didn’t take much time to become a health-promoting medicine.
So, cocoa powder is made simply by crushing the cocoa beans and then treating it to remove the butter or cocoa butter which is nothing but fat. Today when we talk about cocoa, the first use that comes to our mind is that of chocolate production, right? Well, that’s just not it.
There are so many health-related benefits of cocoa powder that you must know about. Here, in this post, we will go in-depth and understand the health benefits, side effects, and uses of cocoa powder. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
Health Benefits of Cocoa Powder
Here are the top reasons why cocoa powder can be beneficial for your overall health.
1 – Cocoa Powder is rich in polyphenols:
We always keep talking about how antioxidants help your body get rid of the toxins produced in it. Polyphenols are the antioxidants that occur naturally in fruits, vegetables, tea, wine, and more.
These are linked to many health benefits like reduced inflammation, adequate blood pressure and sugar levels, reduced cholesterol levels, and more. Cocoa is known to be one of the richest sources of polyphenol.
These have a high concentration of flavanols that function as antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Cocoa is treated with an alkaline solution to mitigate its bitterness and with that, it loses almost 60% of its flavanol content. That’s one of the reasons why processing and heating cocoa is not done especially when it is being treated to create medicines.
2 – Reduces High Blood Pressure:
Do you know someone who is dealing with high blood pressure? If yes, you can provide them with dark chocolate as cocoa in its darkest powder form may help to improve the nitric oxide levels in the blood.
But, how did people know about all this? It all happened in Central America, where cocoa-drinking island people were found to have a lower blood pressure than people who drank no cocoa.
As the nitric oxide levels in the blood increase, the function of the blood vessels improves and the blood pressure is reduced. Processing cocoa powder will definitely reduce the flavanol content and might not help in reducing high blood pressure.
3 – Reduces the risk of a heart attack:
Yes, along with reduced blood pressure, cocoa powder can help lower the risks of a heart attack and stroke. Such properties of cocoa powder are due to the flavanol content which boosts the nitric oxide levels of blood.
This dilates the arteries and improves blood flow throughout the body. This is one thing. The other factor is that due to its blood-thinning properties, it reduces the bad cholesterol which is also known as LDL cholesterol.
It improves the blood sugars and reduces the chances of inflammation. All these properties of cocoa powder can be linked to lower risks of running into a heart attack or even heart failure for that matter.
4 – Improves Blood Flow towards Brain:
Cocoa powder has been found to have properties that can significantly reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. These are diseases that are related to the brain and its functioning.
So, cocoa powder can improve brain function by improving the blood flow towards the brain. Flavanols present in cocoa powder can mix with the blood and cross all kinds of blood-barrier to create biochemical pathways and produce important neurons that boost the brain functioning.
Additionally, the presence of nitric oxide supports better blood flow. Therefore, cocoa powder can maintain brain health and keep you from all kinds of neurodegenerative diseases.
5 – Helps fight Depression:
Cocoa powder has been very much related to curing many age-related and mood-related problems as well. It is known to improve mood and cure many symptoms of clinical depression.
This is also due to the rich concentration of flavanols in cocoa powder. The conversion of tryptophan to serotonin can provide sensory pleasures to the brain. Now, what actually happens is that serotonin is a chemical that is responsible for making humans feel good.
As tryptophan converts into serotonin, the natural mood stabilizers in the body are triggered and the desirable chemicals are released. This can definitely help reduce the effects of depression. But still, no definite conclusions can be drawn without much research.
6 – Other health benefits of cocoa powder:
are improving symptoms of type 2 diabetes, helping in weight control, and also showing cancer-protective properties. Cocoa powder is also known to have helped people with Asthma. It can also help you with curing your teeth and skin-related problems.
Side Effects of Cocoa Powder
Side effects of using cocoa are mostly around the presence of caffeine and related chemicals in it. It is likely safe for most people to consume food containing cocoa.
But, there are many side effects like nervousness, increased urination, sleeplessness, and increased heart rate that are caused due to excessive consumption of caffeine. Cocoa can also cause allergic problems for your skin and might even trigger migraines!
Uses of Cocoa Powder
Although the cocoa powder is used to create medicines, there are many fun ways of using cocoa powder as well.
You can include cocoa in your diet by eating dark chocolate, hot cocoa drink can be made by adding cocoa to your favorite dairy, you can use it in your smoothies, puddings, make vegan chocolate mousse, and can add it to granola bars as well.
Cocoa has left scientists all over the world intrigued and they are working on finding the next big health problem that cocoa powder can solve. There are still so many health benefits of cocoa which is why you must include it in your daily diet. But, make sure you don’t exceed its consumption.