We are all very familiar with cocoa, especially during the winter months while we snuggle up to a nice cup of hot chocolate. However are we familiar with the health benefits of Cacao? In this article we will discuss the three top health benefits of this amazing superfood!
Cocoa dates back as late as the 16th Century when it was first introduced to Europe and quickly became popular as a health-promoting medicine.
Today, cocoa is most famous for its role in chocolate production. However, modern research has now revealed that it does contain important compounds that can benefit your health. Below discussed are the three top health benefits of cacao.
Maintain muscle and nerve function
Cacao beans contain a very high content of magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in our bodies, and cacao nibs contain 272 milligrams (mg) per 100 grams. (The recommended daily allowance of magnesium is 300mg for men and 270mg for women).
Magnesium is also a mineral that helps turn the food we eat into energy and it ensures that the parathyroid glands, which produce hormones important for bone health, work normally (3).
Neurotransmitters are the little messengers in our brains that tell our bodies how to behave, ultimately affecting our mood. Cacao has been shown to have an amazing ability to mimic these neurotransmitters ultimately affecting our mood.
Cacao stimulates the brain to release particular neurotransmitters, that can trigger emotions (like euphoria). There are two chemicals that cacao produces in our bodies when consumed.
One is phenylethylamine (PEA). This chemical is made naturally in our bodies. We produce PEA, when our body becomes excited due to an external stimuli. PEA is an adrenal-related chemical, so when we are ‘excited’ it leads to the pulse to become faster, ultimately providing us with more focus and awareness. (4,5)
The second chemical is anandamide, which is a lipid soluble chemical found in cacao also known as the “the bliss molecule.” It has been given this name due to its natural molecular shape, which is very similar to THC. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana. (6)
By mimicking these two neurotransmitters, cacao ultimately enhances mood and focus.
Rich in PolyphenolsPolyphenols are naturally occurring antioxidants found in foods such as fruits, vegetables and chocolate. Research has shown that they have been linked to numerous health benefits, including:
- Reducing inflammation,
- Better blood flow
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve Cholesterol
- Improve blood sugar levels (7)
Cacao powder is a rich source of polyphenols, and is especially abundant in flavanols, which have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Cacao powder is less processed than cocoa powder thus resulting in a more health beneficial product. Cocoa is typically processed and heated which can cause it to lose its beneficial properties. It’s also often treated with alkaline to reduce bitterness, which results in a 60% decrease in flavanol content (8).
Therefore Cacao powder is a great source of polyphenols, as it less processed.
Anything else?There are many other health benefits of Cacao. However the ones we have touched on are backed up with evidence. From our research and recent studies we know that Cacao can help maintain muscle, improve nerve function and enhance mood and is a great source of polyphenols!
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