Advertisement When it comes to beverages, there’s nothing quite as comforting as a hot cup of cocoa.
Derived from the beans of the cacao plant ( Theobroma cacao ) and first cultivated by the Aztec and Maya civilizations of Central America, cocoa as we know it, started out as a bitter beverage called “cacahuatl” that was shared during religious ceremonies.
The drink soon found its way to Europe, thanks to the Spanish conquistadors who brought home with them their newfound knowledge regarding the cacao plant, its precious beans, and how to process them.
From there, the drink took a life of its own: mixed with spices and sweeteners, it was hailed by the upper classes as a delicious and healthy beverage, and was even marketed as a powerful aphrodisiac.
There’s more to cocoa than just being a sweet and comforting drink, however, it’s actually packed full of vitamins and minerals.
According to experts, 100 grams or 6 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder contains the following nutrients : 57.9 grams of carbohydrates
13.7 grams of fat
19.6 grams of protein
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) – 14 percent Daily Value (DV)
Niacin (Vitamin B3) – 11 percent DV
Folate (Vitamin B9) – 8 percent DV
Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) – 6 percent DV
Thiamin (Vitamin B1) – 5 percent DV
Manganese – 192 percent DV
Copper – 189 percent DV
Magnesium – 125 percent DV
Iron – 7 percent DV
Phosphorus – 73 percent DV
Zinc – 45 percent DV
Potassium – 44 percent DV
Selenium – 20 percent DV
Calcium – 13 percent DV
Where cocoa shines, however, is in its antioxidant content.
As noted in a study published in the journal Antioxidants & Redox Signaling , cocoa contains flavonoids such as catechins, epicatechins, and procyanidins — all of which are linked to several important health benefits . Cocoa can help reduce high blood pressure
The next time you feel like your blood pressure is shooting up, go to the kitchen and make yourself a cup of cocoa.
Cocoa, according to researchers, may be able to help lower blood pressure in certain individuals.This reduction in blood pressure is caused by flavonols, which, as noted in a study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews , helps improve the levels of nitric oxide in the blood .Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to relax and dilate, thus helping to lower your blood pressure.Aside from flavonols, cacao also has other antioxidants, namely catechins and anthocyanins, which help promote healthy cardiovascular function by maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. Cocoa may help improve your cognitive function and mood Need more brainpower? Grab a cup of hot cocoa!This is because cocoa is packed full of antioxidant compounds that can reduce your risk of neurodegenerative diseases by supporting neuron production and brain function as well as by improving blood flow to the brain .In addition to helping improve your cognitive function, the antioxidants in cocoa may also exert some positive effects on your mood according to another study which noted the absorption and accumulation of flavonoids in the brain regions involved in learning and memory.As detailed in the research, this accumulation of antioxidants helps reduce stress levels, as well as improves calmness, contentment and overall psychological well-being.Also, cacao is considered by experts to be one of the best plant-based sources of magnesium, a mineral that helps turn glucose into energy, which then enables your brain to work with laser-sharp focus. Cocoa may help in safe and sensible weight management While it may seem counterintuitive, research suggests that consuming a little dark chocolate may play a role in controlling your appetite, which in turn could help you manage your weight.According to neuroscientist Will Clower, this is because consuming a little dark chocolate — and by extension dark cocoa — before or after meals triggers the release of hormones that signal to the brain that you’re already full.Furthermore, as noted in an article published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology , chocolate actually promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut , which, in turn, results in healthy metabolism. Cocoa may help prevent the development and spread of certain types of cancers If you want to guard themselves from the wrath of cancer, you may want to indulge in some hot cocoa — the antioxidants in cocoa are some of the most potent, after all.In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Society of Hypertension , people who constantly snack on dark chocolate develop fewer cancers than those who don’t consume them — an effect believed to be caused by the antioxidants epicatechin and quercetin.In addition, test-tube studies on cocoa’s components show that not only do the compounds have antioxidant effects, they are also capable of inhibiting malignant cell growth, induce apoptosis or death in cancer cells and even help prevent their spread.Animal studies regarding cocoa-rich diets and the use of cocoa extracts too have seen positive results, with some studies even noting their capability to reduce breast, pancreatic, prostate, liver and colon cancers and even leukemia.Researchers note, however, that while the limited studies in humans are promising, more research is needed in order to confirm cocoa’s potential role in cancer prevention. Cacao can help provide relief in people with asthma Cocoa, according to preliminary research, may be beneficial for asthmatic people as it contains the compounds theobromine and theophylline which have properties that can offer relief to people suffering from asthma.Theobromine, for instance, is similar to caffeine and may help with persistent coughing , while theophylline helps the lungs dilate, as well as relaxes the airways and decreases inflammation.Take note, however, that these findings have not yet been clinically tested in humans, and that further research is needed in order to see if cocoa can be safely used as a treatment option in conjunction with other anti-asthmatic drugs. Cocoa can help nourish and protect the skin If you’re looking for ways to improve and nourish skin, you may benefit from a cup of hot cocoa.According to experts from the Harvard […]