Many people crave chocolate and avoid it because they are under the impression that it is fattening and unhealthy. Although a lot of chocolate products are unhealthy and calories dense, it is due to the addition of substances such as sugar and not to the cocoa itself. In fact, cocoa powder, which comes from the cocoa bean, is highly nutritious. The cocoa powder benefits are numerous.
Unsweetened cocoa powder can give you your chocolate fix without the guilt. Made by grinding the solids left over after fatty cocoa liquor is extracted from crushed cocoa beans, unsweetened cocoa powder imparts rich chocolate flavor with virtually no sugar and little fat. The cocoa powder benefits are very important because the powder also contains essential nutrients and helps fight chronic disease.
Cocoa Powder Nutritional Facts
A 2 tbsp. serving of cocoa contains just 25 calories and 1.5 g of fat. It also provides you with 3.6 g of fiber, which is 14 percent of the daily value, and 8 percent of the daily value of iron and 14 percent of the daily value of magnesium.
Cocoa Powder Benefits and Uses
1. Provides Antioxidants
Cocoa contains approximately 43.6 mg of flavonoids per gram. Flavonoids are part of a powerful group of antioxidants known as polyphenols, and according to Medical News Today, cocoa is one of the highest polyphenol-containing foods. In addition, hot cocoa contains more antioxidants per cup than a serving of red wine or tea, and Science Daily explains it may even be the healthiest choice of the three. Therefore, the cocoa powder benefits for the health are huge.
Science Daily also states that drinking cocoa may help to fight cancer, heart disease and aging through its antioxidant boosting effect. Medical News Today warns however that most commercial cocoa powders have the antioxidant-containing flavonoids removed because they taste bitter; therefore, in order to obtain the health boosting benefits, consider buying raw cocoa powder, which is a minimally processed cocoa powder.
2. Boosts the Fiber Intake
It’s been researched that in 2 tablespoon serving of cocoa contains 3.6 grams of fiber, 25 calories, and 1.5 grams of fat. According to Institute of Medicine, those contents is approximately 14% of the recommended daily value for women or 9% of the recommended daily value for men. It’s also 8% of recommended daily value of iron and 14% of recommended daily values of magnesium. Fiber intake is needed for your body to:
- Control your meal portion
- Fight constipation
- Reduce a risk of cardiovascular disease
- Reduce high cholesterol
3. Provides Essential Minerals
Unsweetened cocoa powder also provides some essential minerals such as calcium and potassium. As you know that calcium is an essential component of bones and teeth. Calcium and potassium can help your health your heart function, muscle contraction and nerve activity. In addition, potassium also has a role in your kidney function. The cocoa powder benefits for the intake of essential minerals is important for the body.
Not only provide calcium and potassium, unsweetened cocoa powder also provides an essential mineral called copper. According to the Institute of Medicine, in 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder contain 410 micro-grams of copper which is 45 percent of recommended daily value. Five big benefits of copper are:
- Strengthen your connective tissues because it produces mature collagen
- Promote your body metabolism
- Boost your energy
- Play good role in nervous system function
- Produce melanin –a pigment in your hair, eye, and skin.
4. Powerful Antidepressant
According to Elson Hass in his book “Staying Healthy with Nutrition,” cocoa may provide antidepressant benefits. He explains that cocoa contains the substance phenethylamine, which is a neurotransmitter found in the brain that acts as a mood elevator and natural antidepressant.
The University of Michigan Health System (UMIM) states that cocoa may also have the ability to boost endorphins, which act as natural “happy” opiates and are responsible for the highs that are often felt after exercising, laughing, having sex or winning the lottery. Finally, UMIM says that cocoa may boost serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter that antidepressants target in order to boost overall happiness levels.
5. Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
The antioxidants found in cacao help to maintain healthy levels of nitric oxide (NO) in the body. Although NO has heart-benefiting qualities, such as relaxing blood vessels and reducing blood pressure, it also produces toxins. The antioxidants in cacao neutralize these toxins, protecting your heart and preventing disease.
6. Rich Source of Phytonutrients
Phytonutrients are natural chemicals which produced by plants to provide health benefits that has been proven scientifically. One of study published in the “Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in 2008 explain the benefits of the flavanols in the cocoa, there are:
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve blood vessels
- Improve blood cell function
There has been also some research that study the benefits of unsweetened cocoa powder to help curing diseases such as cancer. But it’s still not proven yet and need more investigation.
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