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Health Benefits of Cocoa: A Protector of the Heart

Several Studies have Confirmed that Cocoa has Multiple Benefits when Consumed Regularly, Here we tell you About its Contributions to Health.

cocoa bean

Photo: Pixabay

LatinAmerican Post | Erika Benitez

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Leer en español: Beneficios del cacao para la salud: un protector del corazón

Cocoa is a fruit of tropical origin that comes from the cocoa tree that grows in the Amazon basin, its scientific name is "Theobroma Cacao", which in Greek means "food of the gods". Going back a bit to its history, the Mayans called this fruit "cacauatl". They cultivated it and consumed it mixed with water and spices such as pepper or cloves, which they called "xocolatl" ("bitter water") and considered it a divine food, due to its invigorating properties. Thus, since ancient times, humanity has enjoyed the benefits of cocoa.

The most common varieties of cocoa are the forastero, the trinitario and the criollo cocoa. Environmental conditions are key to good production, so between 300 and 600 seeds are needed to make 1 kg of cocoa. Today, its main growing regions are West Africa, Central and South America, and Asia.

Health benefits of cocoa

An important distinction should be made between cocoa and chocolate, which may have a higher or lower concentration of cocoa. The higher percentage of cocoa it contains, the more you can enjoy its healthy properties. Experts recommend that chocolate have between 80% and 90% cocoa, since they have less sugar and never below 70%.

A recent study by the University of Surrey, in the United Kingdom, revealed that the flavonoids present in cocoa manage to lower blood pressure, but only if it is high. The study published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Nutrition was conducted with consumers in everyday life. Likewise, research shows that cocoa helps reduce the stiffness of the arteries; although it is not the first time that the benefits of this food have been discussed.

According to the Cocoa Observatory, an entity that is responsible for analyzing the properties of natural cocoa, this fruit has a high nutritional value and is rich in antioxidants. Its regular consumption has multiple health benefits:

  • Reduce “bad cholesterol” (LDL).
  • Reduce blood pressure.
  • Delay the progression of arteriosclerosis.
  • Control overweight.
  • Reduce the risk of diabetes.
  • Reduce mild memory loss.
  • Stimulate the defenses.
  • Protect the skin against ultraviolet rays, etc.

Thanks to its high content of antioxidants, the consumption of natural cocoa can be a good ally to improve the texture of our skin: its density, its thickness and its resistance to wrinkles. Even a serving of natural cocoa powder provides more antioxidants than some drinks such as tea or certain fruits such as blueberries.

Within the research carried out by the “Cacao Observatory”, the components and their healthy effects in other areas have also been studied. For example, the flavonoids present in natural cocoa facilitate the dilation of the arteries of the kidneys, which could contribute to the regulation of oxygen and nutrients that reach these organs, as well as improve their functioning.

Flavonoid intake, in particular, is linked to a lower risk of mild memory loss in the elderly. Research indicates that these components can help reverse this type of age-related alterations. In this same sense, it has been seen that taking natural cocoa on a regular basis could improve cognitive performance without causing any adverse effects

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Cocoa to regulate sugar and increase the feeling of well-being

The National University of Colombia (UNAL) Orinoquía Campus and the Central University of Venezuela conducted an investigation in which they reveal that consuming unfermented cocoa improves insulin sensitivity. An indicator that shows the ability of this hormone to reduce glucose levels. A result of great importance, since, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people with diabetes has quadrupled in the world in the last 30 years. Similarly, the study shows that cardiovascular health and the immune system are strengthened during its consumption.

On the other hand, a clinical trial at the University of Salamanca studied the effect of chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa on the health of postmenopausal women. The objective was to analyze the effects of adding 10 g of chocolate with 99% cocoa per day to the usual diet of women between 50 and 64 years of age, for 6 months. The results showed that there is a slight improvement in cardiovascular health, although it does not cause adverse effects on the parameters evaluated in the long term. On the other hand, it decreases fat mass and body fat percentage without altering weight. The additional intake of 10 g of cocoa-rich commercial chocolate in postmenopausal women could have a slight impact on their perception of their health status, but without actually changing their quality of life.

Dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa contains tryptophan, a serotonin precursor, which in turn helps increase the level of endorphins and dopamine, known to improve mood, give a feeling of well-being and relaxation, with energy. In addition, it manages to slow down the aging process and a better performance of cognitive or mental processes, including memory.

Finally, the “Cacao Observatory” points out that thanks to the results of the studies, many of the myths that surround the consumption of natural cocoa have been disproved. Among the most prominent are that cocoa causes cavities, that it increases cholesterol, that it makes you fat, that it produces nervous excitement or that it creates some type of addiction. So, given the scientific evidence, including cocoa in its natural state in your daily diet can be very beneficial for your health.