You may be surprised to learn that cocoa is actually a FRUIT - and even more surprised to learn that it is actually one of the most healthy fruits commonly eaten by man.
Recent research studies have shown a link between cocoa and cardiovascular health, with reduced risk of blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks.
Cornell University food scientists discovered that cocoa powder has nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine, and up to three times the antioxidants found in green tea.
The ORAC score per 100 grams of unprocessed raw cacao is 28,000, compared to 18,500 for Acai Berries, 1,540 for Strawberries, and only 1,260 for raw Spinach. The ORAC score for a typical manufactured Dark Chocolate is an impressive 13,120 - although one unique, organic, and non-roasted brand of Dark Chocolate has a much higher ORAC score. But for Milk Chocolate the ORAC score is much lower at 6,740.
Cocoa also appears to have anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. And cocoa is a good source of the minerals magnesium, sulphur, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium, and manganese; plus some of the B Vitamins.
When heart problems occur, magnesium is the most likely mineral to be missing in the person's diet.
Cocoa has a high content of the "beauty" mineral, sulfur. Sulfur helps build strong nails and hair, promotes healthy and beautiful skin, helps detoxify the liver, and supports healthy functioning of the pancreas.
Fresh cocoa beans are super-rich in the type of bioflavonoid called flavanols which are strong antioxidants that help maintain healthy blood flow and blood pressure. The heart-healthy flavanols in cocoa, especially the epicatechins, prevent fatty substances in the bloodstream from oxidizing and then clogging the arteries.
Flavanols help make blood platelets less likely to stick together and cause blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes - without the negative side effects associated with the use of aspirin (ASA) and other pharmaceutical blood-thinners.
Cocoa beans contain 10,000 milligrams (10 grams) of flavanol antioxidants per 100 grams - or an amazing 10% antioxidant concentration level! When it comes to supplying your body with effective antioxidants, no other natural food can even come close. No exotic super-fruit like Acai berries, no high-antioxidant fruits like prunes or blueberries, and no vegetables. The antioxidants in cocoa are easily absorbed by the human body, and are more stable and long-lasting than those in any other foods.
Cocoa also contains the amino acid Tryptophan which makes the neurotransmitter known as serotonin, which promotes positive feelings and helps keep us from feeling depressed. Cocoa contains the neurotransmitters dopamine, and phenylethylamine (PEA), and contains anandamide and MAO Inhibitors - which make this heart-healthy food a healthy food for the brain too.
Phenylethylamine (PEA) helps promote mental alertness and the ability to concentrate. The PEA in healthy chocolate can be of help to students taking tests, and to senior citizens who want to retain the mental capacity of a younger person and postpone the onset of dementia.
Studies have indicated that consuming healthy dark chocolate produced an increased sensitivity to insulin (which indicates a protective effect against diabetes).
Cocoa nibs are dried cocoa beans, and these are available in health food stores as a super-healthy snack food. They have a strong chocolate taste; but it's a bitter taste, since they have not been sweetened with sugar. If you can get used to the bitter taste, cocoa nibs make one of the healthiest snack foods you can find, since they offer ALL the health benefits of cocoa listed above! Also, cocoa reduces your appetite and helps you lose weight.
While you may have believed that cocoa and chocolate were "bad for you", the truth is that THE RIGHT KIND OF CHOCOLATE provides many health benefits that make it not only "good for you" but better for your body than most of the fruits and vegetables your mother made you eat when you were a child.
Eating a healthy dark chocolate provides a sweet, sensual, sin-free pleasure, as well as some significant health benefits. A heart-felt gift of healthy dark chocolate to a loved one offers a heart-warming, delightfully delicious treat, as well as a super heart-healthy food that promotes a longer and healthier life.
If the pharmaceutical industry managed to produce a patented product that offered all the health benefits of cocoa, they would likely proclaim it a "miracle drug"! But since cocoa is widely available, is relatively inexpensive, and does not require you to pay for a doctor's prescription nor pay fees to a dispensing pharmacy, you are not likely to hear many members of the medical establishment recommending chocolate for its many health benefits.
You may also be surprised to learn that dark chocolate can help you lose weight! Because it has appetite-suppressant properties, cocoa is often added to weight loss products to help control hunger.
While you may have been told that chocolate is "fattening", the truth is that the fats found in cocoa butter are actually healthy fats! Cacao contains oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat which is also found in olive oil and is believed to raise the level of the "good cholesterol" known as HDL cholesterol (the acronym HDL stands for "High Density Lipid").
Healthy chocolate can be of great benefit to tobacco smokers - but not just because they need lots of the antioxidants which neutralize the free radicals generated by the toxic compounds in tobacco smoke. A recent study in Switzerland indicated that dark chocolate may help prevent hardening of the arteries.
A 2006 clinical study by Swiss researchers found that within minutes of consuming dark chocolate, their test group of 20 smokers experienced a significant improvement in the function of the endothelial cells which line the artery walls. Smoking tobacco has long been linked to hardening of the arteries and an increase in the production of clot-forming platelets in the blood.