Chocolate or cacao, Theobroma cacao, is 3000 years old and brimming with antioxidants and polyphenols. Cacao fruit or pods carry the beans that are processed into chocolate.
Chocolate is more than a 4-billion-dollar industry in the USA alone.
History of Chocolate
For 90 percent of chocolates long history, it was strictly a beverage and sugar had nothing to do with it. Possibly dating back to 1400 BC to Mesoamerica, during the periods of Olmec, Aztec and Mayan civilizations.
Cacao is name of the plant or its beans before it is processed.
Cocoa is the chocolate produced after processing, in liquid or powdered form.
The more the cacao pods are processed the less the health benefits are for you. It is important to note that not all chocolate is created equal.
The darker the chocolate the more the health benefits; for instance, milk chocolate is sweeter, has more sugar and milk added, is more processed and has less antioxidant power.
Your darker chocolates are less sweet, but have more impressive amounts of antioxidants and health compounds because it is less processed.
Health Benefits of Chocolate
There are many nutrients in cacao bean; including manganese, copper, magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium, potassium and fiber. It also contains vitamin E, vitamin B12, niacin, and riboflavin.
- Protects you from risk of disease by neutralizing free radicals because of flavonoid and polyphenol compounds.
- Helps with cancer prevention, one animal study found it effective, especially for colon cancer, reducing its spread and reducing inflammation.
- Cocoa can improve heart health, decrease high blood pressure and increase blood flow.
- Cacao butter in chocolate is a healthy fat, it can improve levels of lipids in blood by decreasing Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) ratios and lowering cholesterol.
- Cocoa results in better cognitive performance by increasing blood flow to the brain. This could aid in treatment of disease like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
- It can be a vision booster, by improving blood flow to optic area of the brain and the retina of the eye.
- The flavanol content in chocolate is a skin protector against the sun, UV lights. It reduces dry rough skin and is loaded with minerals.
- Cocoa helps maintain the nervous system. The chemical epicatechin may help protect the brain from more damage after a stroke.
- Reduces stress and depression, due to the amino acid, tryptophan, which increases the serotonin hormone, helping to calm and soothe tension.
- The theobromine compound in chocolate helps relieve cough and congestion.
A new study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, that a cacao extract called, Lavado, could block or reduce synapse damage to nerves in patients with Alzheimer! They used an all-natural cocoa extract still high in polyphenols, lightly processed in this study.
Try mixing chocolate or cocoa with your coffee, it is delicious or try our Chocatal(Coffee infused with pure cocoa)
Side Effects of Consuming Chocolate
Some people could have an allergy to chocolate but due to processing use of soy, milk or to caffeine naturally in chocolate. Physiologically it could cause headaches, constipation or allergic type reactions.
It is recommended to consume chocolate in moderation due to it being high in fat and if you are controlling calories, higher in calories. Too much chocolate is linked to other issues such as unable to sleep, mood changes, digestive issues and acne.
Cindy Burrows, B.S., M.T., Herbalist and is a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant helping individuals with health programs to improve life and happiness. She is a writer, speaker and owner of several businesses.