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Cocoa Powder: Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects, Nutritional Value

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Cocoa is native to the Amazon region and as the meaning suggests, it was historically considered a very important crop in Central and South America.

Cocoa Powder amazing benefits includes stabilizing blood pressure, supporting brain health, a good source of antioxidant, maintains cholesterol level, treats diabetes, cure bronchial asthma, contain healing power, reduces obesity, strengthening cardiovascular health, a mood buster, helps treat constipation, prevent cancer, and support skin health.

Cocoa vs Cacao

What is Cocoa Powder?

‘Theobroma cacao’ is a Latin terminology for widely known ingredient cocoa. It is fermented from the seeds of the cacao tree. Cocoa is a main manufacturing ingredient of chocolate and has incredible medical benefits with ineluctable healing power. It is a low-fat constituent of cocoa bean which is finely grounded. Naturally, cocoa is a rich substance with high minerals and nutrients providing innumerable health benefits.

Good for Brain Health

Cocoa powder is a flavonoid-rich ingredient that may help you maintain a healthy brain. It provides the neuroprotective benefits to enhance the brain competency, memory and learning functions. In addition to this, scientific studies advocated that cocoa-based products should be an important part of your diet to enhance blood flow and cure vascular disorders. However, excess consumption of cocoa in the caffeinated drinks may lead to severe side effects including sleeplessness and increased urination.

Treats Diabetes

Medical professionals consider diabetes as a silent killer that can damage your glucose metabolism. Adding cocoa-based products in daily diet has demonstrated some noteworthy effects of improved insulin resistance and hypermetabolism of glucose in your body. This function not only helps regulate sugar levels but it contains proanthocyanidins which aid inhibits the formation of cataract which diabetes induces in the blood occasionally.

Another finding suggested that the protective antioxidant in cocoa treats long-term diabetes such as nephrotoxicity which may aggravate the diabetic complications for the patients.

Prevents Magnesium Deficiency

Another benefit of cocoa products is their role in preventing the ill effects of a magnesium deficiency in the body. The regularconsumption of such products may prove beneficial in preventing the adverse effects caused by a diet lacking in magnesium for an extended period of time.  

Relieves Bronchial Asthma

Cocoa is incredibly good at healing bronchial complications. Cacao beans contain xanthine and theophylline, which aid in relaxing bronchial spasms and opening constricted bronchial tubes. This facilitates easy flow of air and is valuable in curing various allergies, including asthma and shortness of breath. Its consumption, therefore, helps in providing relief from bronchial asthma

Speeds up Healing

Cocoa extracts have been trusted for their therapeutic and wound-healing properties in the manufacturing of natural medicinal products. The extracts help in preventing the development of various kinds of infections in the body. If consumed along with the appropriate medication, it has also been considered helpful in eradicating Helicobacter pylori bacteria from the body.

Reduce Obesity

In consonance with some recent studies, scientists believe that cocoa has some potential benefits which prevent obesity in your body. The regular intake of cocoa modulates lipid metabolism to reduce the synthesis of fatty acids. Besides aiding in reducing obesity, appropriate consumption of cocoa improves thermogenesis- the heat production mechanism in the liver and white adipose tissues.

Also Read:  Top 10 Cocoa Producing Countries Today

Improves Cardiovascular Health

Cocoa powder is rich in flavonoids namely, procyanidin, catechin, and epicatechin, which have antioxidant properties and help in protecting the cells from damage while strengthening the heart. It prevents the formation of fatal blood clots, which can lead to stroke or cardiac failure. The flavonoids possess anti-platelet aggregating effects and modulate primary hemostasis, which is the measure of time blood takes to clot. This ultimately helps prevent atherosclerosis and thrombosis.

Mood Buster

Consuming cocoa powder has shown antidepressant-like effects on certain physiological processes. According to scientists can have prominent effects on your mood which help you release stress level. Its antidepressant effect facilitates certain physiological processes. An investigated study states that flavonols in cocoa powder enhance your depressing mood by improving cognitive activities to relieve mental exertion. Plus, the presence of neurochemical phenylethylamine in cocoa powder helps enhance feelings of satisfaction and promote aphrodisiac effects simultaneously.

Treat Constipation

People suffering from chronic constipation can be benefited by consuming cocoa-based products. Cocoa powder exerts therapeutic effects which help treat digestion complication and bowel function diseases. Researchers conducted a study on various pediatric patients to assess the effects of fiber-rich cocoa powder on rectal, colonic and intestinal diseases. The study found cocoa as a substance enhancing the bowel function and movement. It provides relief from gastrointestinal discomfort by softening stool consistency.

Stabilizes Blood Pressure

Cocoa powder has an inexplicable quality to stabilize blood pressure. The sufficiently present flavonoid in cocoa beans not only lowers the blood pressure but improves the elasticity of veins and blood vessels. Moreover, the antioxidants in cocoa increase the stimulation of nitric oxide to control the exerted pressure of blood vessels. On the contrary, there are certain cocoa-based products like black tea that may have some precarious effects on the normal pulse rate of blood pressure.

Antioxidant Capacity

A comparative research study published in 2003 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has made it evident that cocoa exhibits higher antioxidant activity than black tea, green tea, and red wine.  Antioxidants help neutralize the oxygen-based free radicals that are present in the body. In addition to this, it is abundant in phenolic phytochemicals and possesses a high amount of flavonoids as well. Zinc, present in it, helps protect you against oxidative stress, which is a major cause behind accelerated aging.

Maintains Cholesterol Level

As per recent findings, cocoa has hypocholesterolemic and hypoglycemic effects on both cholesterol level and glucose respectively. Researchers have observed a prominent reduction in LDL cholesterol, glucose level, and triglycerides in the people consuming cocoa powder. To add to it, cocoa increases the level of HDL (healthy cholesterol) in the blood which leads to diminishing the risk of heart diseases.

Regulate Blood Sugar Levels

A research study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that consumption of cocoa powder is effective in improving insulin resistance and glucose metabolism. This, in turn, aids in regulating sugar levels in the body. The proanthocyanidins derived from this product help in inhibiting the cataract formation occasionally induced by diabetes.  The intake of this flavanol-rich bean also has therapeutic potential in improving the vascular function of diabetics on various medications

Also Read:  Top 19 Probiotic Foods You Should Eat

Weight Management

A study has shown the potential benefits of cocoa in preventing high-fat-diet-induced obesity. Its intake helps in modulating lipid metabolism and reducing the synthesis and transport of fatty acids. It also improves thermogenesis, which is the mechanism of heat production in white adipose tissues and the liver.

Prevents Cancer

Cocoa has demonstrated beneficial effects in inhibiting the growth of cancer cells without affecting the growth of normal healthy cells (European Journal of Cancer Prevention 2006).  Cocoa powder evidently exhibits anti-proliferative qualities to heal cancer with the help of procyanidins and flavonols. Particularly, it aids treat prostate and colon cancer with its effective healing power.

Treats Copper Deficiency

Cocoa extends its benefits to treating copper deficiency in patients on long-term enteral nutrition.  The bean is quite valuable in copper substitution therapy, which results in significant improvements in the hemoglobin level, leucocyte count, and copper content in such patients. It is considered valuable as a copper-rich component. Thus, it could be added to the diet to maintain normal levels of copper as well as a remedy for treating copper deficiency in such conditions. It helps in preventing and treating anemia, neutropenia, and leukopenia.

Reduces Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Cocoa powder has been shown to exert calming effects on people suffering from chronic fatigue. Its attenuating effects are attributed to the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin, anandamide, and phenylethylamine in the brain. These exert protective effects on the neuronal cells and helps in combating chronic fatigue syndrome.

Skin Care

Research findings suggest that the consumption of flavonol-rich cocoa helps in decreasing the effects of UV-induced erythema, and reducing skin roughness and scaling.  It also aids in enhancing skin elasticity, hydration, and density. Epicatechin present in cacao aids in elevating the oxygen saturation of hemoglobin, stimulating the healthy flow of blood in the dermal tissues, and contributing to endogenous photo-protection. It is also used in the preparation of various skin care products.

Neuroprotective Properties

Cocoa has flavonoids such as epicatechin and catechin, which have been found to have an anti-neurodegenerative effect. In a rat model study conducted., cocoa procyanidins had a protective effect against oxidative stress, which has strongly linked to the development of neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease. Further human studies are required to check the benefits of this bean against neurodegenerative diseases.

Uses of Cocoa

  • Cocoa mulch is a by-product and is produced from the discarded shells of cacao beans.  Mulch is valuable in efforts to reduce weeds, regulate the temperature of the soil, prevent soil erosion, and increase its nutritive value.
  • Cacao beans have water retention capability too.
  • Roasting cacao beans release their shells, which are further used to produce cocoa mulch. This is rich in naturally available macro-nutrients such as potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen, all of which are valuable for plant health.

Cocoa: A Culinary Gift

Cocoa has been treasured worldwide for its usage in the manufacturing of chocolate and other sweet delicacies as follows:

  • Several types of chocolate are produced from cacao beans, including unsweetened chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate.
  • Cocoa butter is also used as a substitute for gelatin to enhance the flavor and aroma of food.
  • Cacao beans are roasted, husked, ground and, depending on the desired product, sweetened and flavored to produce chocolate.
  • Cocoa butter melts easily providing a smooth and creamy taste to many preparations making them even more palatable. These benefits make cocoa butter a healthy, plant-based alternative to be included in recipes, rather than gelatin, which is derived from animal by-products.
Also Read:  Top 10 Cocoa Producing Countries Today

Note: Commercially available chocolates and cocoa-products may not be rich in the original beneficial flavonols of cacao beans since they might get destroyed by over-processing.

Side Effects

The major side effects of cocoa include:

Caffeine addiction

Cocoa is a source of caffeine and excess intake of cocoa may cause the following:

  • Excess caffeine during breastfeeding can result in crankiness and abdominal discomfort in infants
  • Increased urination, sleeplessness, and irregular heartbeat
  • It can also aggravate the conditions of people already suffering from anxiety disorders or diarrhea
  • It may also worsen the condition of gastro-esophageal reflux disease

Note: Avoid use prior to surgeries to avoid any interference with blood sugar control.

Allergic reactions

Cocoa may cause allergic reactions like the following:

  • Skin reactions
  • Migraine headaches  
  • Digestive discomforts like gas and nausea

Drug interactions

  • It may interact with certain medications including Clozaril, dipyridamole, ergotamine, phenylpropanolamine, and theophylline, and influence their effects on the body.
  • In addition to this, cocoa might also interact with drugs for asthma, depression, and diabetes.

Caffeine may influence the effects of certain medications prescribed before the diagnostic test associated with the heart. It is generally advised to avoid caffeine-rich beverages or foods such as cocoa before such cardiac examinations. Also, consult your doctor before adding a new type of food, especially one with so many unique compounds, into your diet.

Nutritional Value of Cocoa Powder

With a high nutritional value, cocoa is a good source of teaching required nutrients in the body at a time. As it has a negligible level of cholesterol, cocoa is a combination of healthy saturated fats like oleic and stearic acid. Taking its nutritional value into account, below given is a list of health benefits of cocoa powder.

Nutrition Facts

Cocoa, dry powder, unsweetened
Serving Size : 
Nutrient Value
Water [g] 3
Energy [kcal] 228
Protein [g] 19.6
Total lipid (fat) [g] 13.7
Carbohydrate, by difference [g] 57.9
Fiber, total dietary [g] 37
Sugars, total [g] 1.75
Calcium, Ca [mg] 128
Iron, Fe [mg] 13.86
Magnesium, Mg [mg] 499
Phosphorus, P [mg] 734
Potassium, K [mg] 1524
Sodium, Na [mg] 21
Zinc, Zn [mg] 6.81
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]
Thiamin [mg] 0.08
Riboflavin [mg] 0.24
Niacin [mg] 2.19
Vitamin B-6 [mg] 0.12
Folate, DFE [µg] 32
Vitamin B-12 [µg]
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]
Vitamin A, IU [IU]
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg] 0.1
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]
Vitamin D [IU]
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg] 2.5
Fatty acids, total saturated [g] 8.07
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g] 4.57
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g] 0.44
Cholesterol [mg]
Caffeine [mg] 230
Sources include : USDA