Cocoa Health Benefits
For centuries, theobroma-cacao beans have been used widely for their wide range of health benefits, including boosting brain function, alleviating depression and anxiety, and reducing pain. However, in recent years, cocoa has come to market as a weight loss aid, touting itself as an effective substitute for other diet aids such as diet soda and diet substitute beverages (such as Yoplait). So what are cocoa health benefits?
Although cocoa beans contain a small amount of calories per serving, this small amount is not enough to negate the many health benefits of raw chocolate. Most people who eat chocolate find that they obtain most of their energy through the consumption of pure cocoa, and the health benefits of eating chocolate are obvious: the ability to reduce weight and maintain a healthy metabolism. Because of this, many companies have developed products that are comparable to pure cocoa powder, such as Natures Best Chocolate and Raw cacao. Many of these supplements also feature a host of added health benefits: vitamin E, probiotics, and even antioxidants and dietary fiber. These are all good things, but when these supplements are heated and processed, they lose much of their “raw” value, meaning that they are typically lower in calories than their powdered alternative.
Although some of these supplements have a higher percentage of cocoa in their form than others, it’s important to note that they should be consumed unsweetened, with no added sugars or flavors. Pure, unsweetened cocoa may lower cholesterol and may help to reduce the effects of diabetes, especially in people who have a family history of the disease. In fact, some studies indicate that raw cocoa may even lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Other benefits of cocoa are less directly related to its weight-loss qualities. For example, eating a single bar of chocolate per day can result in better stamina. This doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to jog six miles or go for a marathon, but it’s clear that these health benefits come from other sources besides just the cocoa’s weight-loss qualities. More research is needed to confirm these results, but for now, this seems to be one of the many benefits of enjoying a piece of chocolate. And whether or not these other benefits come from eating only one bar or consuming the whole bar (which may be a more appropriate dieting strategy) is really for you to discover on your own!
To enjoy the benefits of the cocoa powder, it’s best to eat it raw and unprocessed. Raw, pure cocoa powder has a somewhat unpleasant, almost bitter flavor. It can be best eaten in a hot cup of cocoa or other hot cocoa beverages. Dark roasted (or “baked”) cocoa tends to taste much better. For those with a sweet tooth, drizzling chocolate on baked cookies and cakes is also a good idea.
One of the best ways to enjoy all of the cocoa’s health benefits is to grind your own cocoa beans. There are plenty of recipes online to help you do so. Even better, if you grind your beans right before brewing your coffee, you’ll immediately have a delicious cup of hot cocoa, guaranteed. If you’re not inclined to make the trip to the store to grind your own beans, try buying ground cocoa powder instead.