Cocoa powder is made from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree, an evergreen tree native to South America. These seeds, also known as cacao beans, are found in the tree's large, oval-shaped pods, and their use dates back to the Mayan civilization, where cacao was both a food and a system of currency.
Minimally processed and dried at low temperatures to ensure maximum nutritional value and flavor, cocoa powder is the purest and most natural form of chocolate. Although chocolate has a reputation for being an indulgent and unhealthy treat, cocoa powder has many health benefits.
With hundreds of compounds including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and phytonutrients, the health benefits of cocoa powder are so extensive that it is considered a superfood.
We leave you 9 benefits of cocoa for health that you may not know.
1-. Cocoa is a nutrient-dense superfood
Cocoa powder is classified as a superfood because it provides many of the essential nutrients your body needs to perform at its best. It is an especially rich source of B vitamins, which not only have a direct impact on energy levels, brain function, and cellular metabolism, but also help prevent infections.
Cocoa is also a source of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that reduces free radical damage and delays the aging process of cells, as well as vitamin C, which is essential for collagen production, iron absorption, healthy immune function, wound healing, and maintenance of strong teeth and bones.
There is also an extensive list of essential minerals found in cocoa, including magnesium, calcium, sulfur, zinc, iron, potassium, and manganese.
2-. Cocoa is a good source of Magnesium.
Every cell in our body requires magnesium to function, and it is necessary for calcium absorption, energy metabolism, protein synthesis, and proper brain function.
Since cocoa is one of the best sources of magnesium, it's easy to increase your magnesium intake by including cocoa powder as an ingredient in our recipes. Eating magnesium-rich foods is not only a natural way to boost our energy and improve your mood, but magnesium can also help relieve muscle tension and menstrual cramps.
3-. Cocoa contains manganese and iron
Manganese is another essential mineral that contributes to the health benefits of cocoa powder and helps us metabolize amino acids, glucose, cholesterol, and carbohydrates. It also supports normal blood clotting, bone formation, oxygenation of the blood, and reduction of inflammation.
Cocoa is also a source of iron , which is essential for immune system function, energy production, enzymatic reactions, and healthy metabolic function. Iron deficiencies are very common, especially in young women, and symptoms include mental and physical exhaustion.
Since we also need iron to convert food into energy and support our cognitive function, it's no wonder people with iron deficiency feel so tired! Cocoa powder is such a fantastic superfood because it contains iron and the vitamin C needed for iron absorption.
4-. Cocoa is one of the best sources of antioxidants in the world.
Antioxidants are molecules that fight damaging free radicals in the body. Cocoa is considered a 'super antioxidant', meaning it is especially effective in slowing down oxidative processes and free radical damage that can contribute to age-related degeneration.
A diet high in antioxidants not only helps protect the heart and prevent cell damage, but antioxidant-rich foods also increase collagen production for radiant, healthy-looking skin.
5-. The fiber content of cocoa supports your gut.
Did you know that cocoa contains soluble and insoluble fiber, which together improve digestive function, intestinal health and intestinal regularity? Adding high-fiber cocoa to your meals not only stimulates your digestive enzymes and helps you feel full longer, but a high-fiber diet and good gut health can help you manage weight in a healthy way.
Cocoa flavonoids have also been shown to increase probiotic activity, while cocoa polyphenols have prebiotic properties. In other words, the compounds in cocoa feed and stimulate the healthy bacteria that live in the gut.
6-. Cocoa is a source of electrolytes.
Many of the body's automatic processes depend on a small electrical current provided by electrolytes, such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium. These and other minerals conduct electricity when dissolved in water, interacting with each other and with cells in tissues, nerves, and muscles. Being a good source of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, cocoa is high in electrolytes that can help maintain a healthy fluid balance in the body.
Electrolytes are not only crucial for stable blood pressure, but also support muscle recovery and neurological function. Since we lose these electrolytes through sweat when we exercise, it's important to replace them with a post-workout snack or shake. Try adding cocoa to your shake after your next workout!
7-. Cocoa contains healthy fatty acids
Cocoa contains a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid known as oleic acid. This healthy fat is necessary for healthy cell membranes, but it is also an important source of energy for cells and is important in fighting pathogens, transporting minerals, and responding to hormones.
Numerous studies show that diets high in monounsaturated fats can also improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation throughout the body.
8-. Cocoa contains theobromine
Theobromine, also found in tea leaves, is closely related to caffeine, but has a much milder impact on the central nervous system. By providing a sustained natural energy boost, this natural compound is unlikely to leave you jittery like caffeine does.
In addition to supporting cognition, theobromine may also improve sleep quality, lower blood pressure, and improve lung function. It also has tons of antioxidants, antibacterial properties, and is even considered an aphrodisiac by some.
9-. Cocoa has many natural feel-good compounds
The powerful natural compounds found in cocoa can have many positive effects on stress levels, inflammation, memory, and the immune system. There are also a large number of studies examining the link between the bioactive compounds in cocoa and our mental well-being.
Many of the natural compounds in cocoa have been shown to improve mood, including:
- Tryptophan: An amino acid and natural antidepressant that helps us produce serotonin, the neurotransmitter that improves our mood, sleep, digestion, memory, and stress levels.
- Phenylethylamine: Known as the 'love chemical', it is an adrenal chemical created by the brain and released when we are in love. It also stimulates the nervous system to release endorphins, improve mental alertness, and elevate mood, metabolism, and memory.
- Anandamide: An important endocannabinoid known as the happiness molecule due to its euphoric effects. It also plays a role in memory, appetite, sleep, and pain relief.
Try adding cocoa to your breakfasts (coffee, porridge, shakes, with milk, etc.) and you will see how you begin to notice its many benefits!
We leave you a recipe for Chocolate Smoothie , delicious and in less than 5 minutes 😉
Written by Ana Saiz
Co-founder of Ganbatte Superfoods