Cocoa is thought to have first been used by the Maya civilization of Central America. It was introduced to Europe by Spanish conquerors in the 16th century and quickly became popular as a health-promoting medicine.
Today, cocoa is most famous for its role in chocolate production. However, modern research has revealed that it does indeed contain important compounds that can benefit your health.
Below are some of the benefits of cocoa powder.
Rich in Polyphenols That Provide Several Health Benefits
Cocoa is rich in polyphenols, which have significant health benefits, including reduced inflammation and improved cholesterol levels. However, processing cocoa into chocolate or other products can substantially decrease the polyphenol content.
May Reduce High Blood Pressure by Improving Nitric Oxide Levels
Studies reveal that cocoa is rich in flavanols, which lower blood pressure by improving nitric oxide levels and blood vessel function. Cocoa containing between 30–1,218 mg of flavanols can reduce blood pressure by an average of 2 mmHg.
May Lower Your Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke
Cocoa can improve blood flow and reduce cholesterol. Eating up to one serving of chocolate per day may reduce your risk of heart attack, heart failure and stroke.
Polyphenols Improve Blood Flow to Your Brain and Brain Function
Flavanols in cocoa can support neuron production, brain function and improve blood flow and supply to brain tissue. They may have a role in preventing age-related brain degeneration, such as in Alzheimer’s disease, but more research is needed.
May Improve Mood and Symptoms of Depression by Various Means
Cocoa may exert some positive effects on mood and symptoms of depression by reducing stress levels and improving calmness, contentment and overall psychological well-being. However, more research is needed.
Flavanols May Improve Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
Cocoa and dark chocolate may reduce your risk of diabetes and maintain healthy blood sugar levels. However, there are some conflicting results in the scientific evidence, so more research is needed.
May Aid Weight Control in Many Surprising Ways
Cocoa products are associated with a lower weight, and the addition of cocoa to your diet may help achieve faster weight loss. However, more research is needed on this topic to determine exactly what type and how much cocoa is ideal.
May Have Cancer-Protective Properties
The flavanols in cocoa have been shown to have promising anti-cancer properties in test-tube and animal studies, but data from human trials is lacking.
Theobromine and Theophylline Contents May Help People With Asthma
Cocoa extract has demonstrated some anti-asthmatic properties in animal studies. However, human trials are needed before it can be recommended as a treatment.
Antibacterial and Immune-Stimulating Properties May Benefit Your Teeth and Skin
Cocoa can promote healthy teeth by fighting bacteria that cause cavities, though this does not apply to sugar-containing products. It also promotes healthy skin by protecting it from sunlight and improving circulation, the skin surface and hydration.
Easy to Include in Your Diet
For heart health, include 0.1 ounces (2.5 grams) of high-flavanol cocoa powder or 0.4 ounces (10 grams) of high-flavanol chocolate in your diet. Adding cocoa can give a delicious chocolate taste to your dishes.