Known to everyone and loved by young or old for its pleasant taste, cocoa is considered as a “superfood”, since it gathers a multitude of nutritional components that are rarely found in a single food. It is high in minerals as well as trace elements, such as magnesium, copper, manganese, iron, phosphorus, potassium and zinc, while it is rich in polyphenols, antioxidant substances with unique benefits for human health.
The scientific name of cacao is “Theobroma cacao”, coming from the Greek words “theos” and “vrosi”, meaning “food of the gods”. Aztecs were the first to include cocoa beans in their diet and considered it to be a source of strength, wealth and health. Its benefits, which have been known for centuries, are now proved by numerous scientific studies.
Cocoa: Beneficial properties
1. Antioxidant action
Cocoa has high concentrations of flavonoids as well as procyanidins, antioxidant components that – among other things – bind and “neutralize” free radicals, slow the mechanisms of carcinogenesis, reduce inflammation or swelling, protect joints and bones, while limiting decay of collagen, thus protecting against premature aging. Research shows that it gathers more antioxidants than red wine or green tea!
2. Strengthens immunity
Just one tablespoon of cocoa powder provides 3-9% of the recommended daily intake of iron, manganese, magnesium and zinc, helping to strengthen the immune system, thereby protecting against viruses and diseases.
3. It’s good for the heart
Its systematic consumption can have a cardioprotective effect, since, thanks to the flavonoids it contains, it improves the elasticity of blood vessels and blood circulation, while at the same time increasing the levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol).
4. Stimulates memory
Flavonoids -contained in cocoa- contribute to better brain function and memory improvement. Theobromine along with caffeine help to stimulate the central nervous system, keeping us mentally alert. Several studies also show that polyphenols can reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases and enhance the cognitive function of older people, minimizing the chances of developing dementia.
5. Improves mood
Thanks to magnesium and theobromine, cocoa acts as a natural tonic, improving mood. Tryptophan, a substance found in its beans, enhances the production of serotonin, which has an anti-depressant effect since it causes a feeling of euphoria and satisfaction.
6. Protects the skin
Its effect on skin’s health and protection is also significant. When consumed on a regular yet controlled basis, thanks to flavonoids, helps to protect the skin from ultraviolet solar radiation, which is responsible for the degradation as well as the destruction of collagen and elastin fibers, resulting in the appearance of premature aging and sagging. In addition, it improves the microcirculation of the skin, leading to better nutrition and oxygenation of its cells, while improving its texture and hydration levels.
Consume it as a drink, sprinkle some powder over your fruits or yogurt, use it in smoothies or enjoy a piece of chocolate with at least 70% cocoa. Whichever way you choose, indulge in its beneficial properties … guilt-free!