Last time I mentioned fermented soybeans. Some readers were confused because I said âsoybeans, not soybeansâ. Okay, it’s still the legume that you and I know, I just said that to let you know it’s called soy and not soy.
This week, I will be talking about cocoa beans and all the products that come from them. This is not new to us because we consume it daily as drinks and confectionery. Cocoa bean or cacao is the fully fermented and dried bean of the Theobroma cocoa plant from which cocoa solids (a mixture of non-fat substances) and cocoa butter (fat) can be extracted. Fermentation is essential for the development of aromas and the final acidity of the cocoa beans. In fact, it has been said that without fermentation, cocoa would have no taste. The tree, which forms the basis of one of the world’s most popular food products, chocolate, has a rich history involving many cultures and significant economic and social implications for millions of people around the world.
The Mayans of Central America are known to have been the first to consume cocoa and in recognition of its multiple health benefits, they (the Mayans) gave cocoa its ancient name “kakawa” which translates to “food of the gods “. The health-promoting properties of cocoa were also celebrated by the ancient Mesoamerican society with historical documents revealing more than 150 medicinal applications of cocoa. In the mid-1600s, cocoa was used in Europe as a medicine to promote health and as a remedy for all kinds of ailments. Cocoa was particularly praised for its ability to treat upper respiratory ailments such as colds and coughs, improve mental well-being, and protect against nutritional deficiencies.
Cocoa contains more phenolic antioxidants than most foods. Cocoa products are excellent sources of several minerals, including selenium, magnesium, chromium, and manganese. These beneficial plant compounds, especially the flavanols, have antioxidant, heart-protective and anticancer properties. They also have positive effects on diabetes, inflammation, oxidative stress, and blood pressure, among others.
Cocoa powder is made from fermented beans that have not been roasted. The result is a bitter tasting powder but with higher nutritional content. Cocoa powder, on the other hand, is made from beans that are both fermented, roasted and then processed at a much higher temperature. Did you notice anything in what you just read? Yes, one is “cocoa” and the other is “cocoa”. Cocoa powder is higher in calories and fiber than cocoa powder because nutrients and fats are still present. In turn, this is a good source of monounsaturated fat, also known as âgood fats,â as well as fiber and protein. So if you are more focused on nutrients and antioxidants go for cocoa, but if you want fewer calories and some antioxidants go for cocoa powder.
Now let me talk about chocolate. This
(Chocolate) would never taste the same if it were all made with cocoa. It takes a lot of sugar and milk to make chocolate so delicious. It usually comes in dark, milky, and white varieties. After fermentation, the beans are dried, cleaned and roasted. The shell is removed to produce cocoa beans which are then ground into a cocoa mass, pure chocolate in raw form. After the cocoa mass is liquefied by heating, it is called chocolate liqueur. Liquor can also be cooled and made into its two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Much of the chocolate consumed today comes in the form of sweet chocolate, a combination of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, or vegetable oils and added sugar. Milk chocolate is a sweet chocolate that also contains powdered or condensed milk. White chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar and milk, but no cocoa solids.
Let’s see some health benefits of these byproducts:
1: The fiber in cocoa powder promotes healthy digestion and may reduce the risk and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive issues.
2: Lowers blood pressure
Cocoa powder is packed with flavonoids. These nutrients have been shown to help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to the brain and heart. It also helps prevent blood clots.
3: Reduces the risk of diabetes
The flavonoids in cocoa powder can help increase insulin sensitivity, lowering your risk for diabetes.
4: Reduces the risk of heart disease
Cocoa powder contains a lot of potassium which reduces the risk of heart disease.
5: reduces inflammation
The flavonoids in cocoa powder can help reduce inflammation throughout your body. Reduced inflammation can lower your risk for certain cancers, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.
6: It contains anti-asthmatic compounds
7: Dark Chocolate May Help Prevent Heart Disease And Reduce The Risk Of Stroke
8: Chocolate can improve cognition, prevent memory loss, and improve your mood
9: Dark chocolate may improve blood sugar and lower your risk of developing diabetes
10: Chocolate is good for your gut and may help with weight loss
11: It fights free radicals and may play a role in cancer prevention
12: It’s good for your skin
13: Dark chocolate can raise good cholesterol and lower it
Some scientific studies
1: In a study titled Health Benefits of Cocoa by Rabia Latif, the conclusion was that it could potentially be used for the prevention / treatment of allergies, cancers, oxidative injuries, inflammatory conditions, anxiety , hyperglycemia and insulin resistance.
2: Male rats were randomly divided into five groups and fed different foods in a study titled “Effect of Cocoa Powder on Hypertension and Antioxidant Status in Uninephrectomized Hypertensive Rats” by Jayeola et al. Cocoa-based foods (one of the five groups were fed only cocoa), however, significantly improved blood pressure and nitric oxide bioavailability, antioxidant status, and reduced markers of inflammation and oxidative stress. The results show that cocoa powder could be used to maintain blood pressure levels in hypertensive rats thanks to its antioxidant capacity.
3: In a study titled Cacao and Human Health: From Head to Foot – A Review by Araujo et al, cocoa is believed to have an effect in different systems that make up the human body such as cardiovascular / circulatory, neurological / nervous, oral health, endocrine, lymphatic and immunological, respiratory, reproductive, dermatological.
However, to experience the full benefits of chocolate, the secret is “the darker the chocolate, the better”. Dark chocolate contains more cocoa and nutrients than milk chocolate and white chocolate. Even studies that tout chocolate’s health benefits often refer to chocolate which has properties closer to raw cocoa and not the average store-bought chocolate bar (white and milk chocolate). By choosing dark chocolate and unsweetened cocoa products, you can minimize the health risks associated with excessive sugar consumption.
Personally, I take cocoa powder. Although it is bitter, the sacrifice is well worth it because of all the health benefits. For chocolate, I will opt for darker chocolates because they contain more cocoa beans than milk and white chocolates. You can incorporate cocoa butter into your beauty routine as it is also one of the cocoa plant by-products.
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