First domesticated by ancient South America cultures over 4000 years ago, cocoa is now enjoyed by billions of people around the world in various forms. From baking to confectionary, this incredible bean is one of the most versatile natural products found in nature. But few people know about it’s incredible health benefits, other that the feel-good mood that comes from slowly devouring a slab of really good chocolate. Here are five benefits that we love.
- Cocoa is one of the richest sources of polyphenols
Polyphenols are naturally occurring antioxidants found in foods like fruits, vegetables, tea, chocolate and wine. They have been linked to numerous health benefits, including reduced inflammation, better blood flow, lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol and blood sugar levels. (HealthOnline)
- Has been found to reduce blood pressure by improving nitric oxide levels.
The flavanols in cocoa, both in its powdered form and in the form of dark chocolate, are thought to improve nitric oxide levels in the blood, which can enhance the function of your blood vessels and reduce blood pressure. This was first noted in the cocoa-drinking island people of Central America, who had much lower blood pressure than their non-cocoa-drinking mainland relatives
- May improve mood and depression
Cocoa’s positive effects on mood may be due to its flavanols and the conversion of tryptophan to the natural mood stabilizer serotonin. Whether it’s the caffeine content or just the pleasure of eating chocolate, studies have shown that chocolate eaten during pregnancy results in reduced stress and improved mood in babies.
- Flavanols and the improvement of Type 2 Diabetes symptoms
Firstly, we are not advocating chocolate here, but the anti-diabetic effects of cocoa. Eating flavanol-rich dark chocolate or cocoa can reduce insulin sensitivity, improve blood sugar control and reduce inflammation in diabetic and non-diabetic people. Recent studies show promise, but more research is needed on this subject.
- Cocoa may benefit your teeth and skin
The antibacterial and immune-stimulating properties of cocoa may protect against dental cavities and gum disease while the polyphenols can provide benefits for skin. Several studies have shown promise, but new products will have to be developed that done contact the sugar that most cocoa based foods have.