Benefits of Cocoa – How Healthy Is It?
What’s considered healthy is the actual cocoa bean, one of the world’s longest-revered foods in many cultures such as the Aztecs. Cocoa has, in recent years, been shown to be a powerhouse of cognitive enhancement, antioxidants, flavonols, catechins and other brain & body-enhancing elements. [i]
A breakthrough study published by the American College of Cardiology found that daily cocoa flavanol consumption more than doubled the number of circulating angiogenic cells n the blood. These cells have vessel repair and maintenance functions, which contribute to healthy blood vessels, helping to prevent cardiovascular diseases. [ii]
Cocoa is also a good source of magnesium, believed to help relieve premenstrual and nervous tension. And most health professionals agree that it’s also a great source of antioxidants. A diet high in antioxidants kills those nasty free radicals that destroy healthy cells in the body, causing cancer, heart disease and premature ageing. Cocoa has nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine and up to three times those found in green tea.
So why can’t you just eat a chocolate bar a day to keep the doctor away? Simple: chocolate does not equal cocoa. Most chocolate contains relatively low levels of cocoa compared to high calorie, high fat ingredients such as sugar and dairy, not to mention artificial flavors and additives. Whatever cocoa remains in most commercially produced chocolate is probably of dubious health benefit, after the rigours of refining and processing.
So, the best way to maximise the health benefits of cocoa is by using 100% pure and organic cocoa powder – as a beverage. Forget the pre-packaged chocolate drink powders in the supermarket (containing mainly sugar and milk powders) and make your own. Mix a tablespoon of cocoa powder with warmed skim milk (or a non-dairy substitute like soy/rice/oat milk), add a sprinkle of spice (cinnamon, ground cloves or allspice) and raw sugar for sweetness (but not too much!). Then sit back and take a long, soothing sip. Being healthy never tasted so good!