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10 Awesome Health Benefits Of Cocoa Powder You Never Knew

There are some people who love to gorge on chocolates and there are also some section of people who don't like eating chocolates because they think it's fattening and unhealthy. Chocolates are made from cocoa powder, which is made by crushing cocoa beans and removing the fat or cocoa butter.

There are three varieties of cocoa plant - Forastero, Criollo, and Trinitario. Forastero is the widely used cocoa powder, comprising 80-90 per cent of the world production of cocoa. The Criollo variety is considered a delicacy and Trinitario is a hybrid of Forastero and Criollo.

Spanish conquerors introduced cocoa powder in Europe in the 16th century and from then on, it widely became popular as a medicine for promoting overall health.

Nutritional Value Of Cocoa Powder

100 g of unsweetened cocoa powder contains 3 g water, 228 kcal energy and it also contains:

  • 19.6 g protein
  • 13.7 g fat
  • 57.9 g carbohydrate
  • 37 g fibre
  • 1.75 g sugar
  • 128 mg calcium
  • 13.86 mg iron
  • 499 mg magnesium
  • 734 mg phosphorus
  • 1524 mg potassium
  • 21 mg sodium
  • 6.81 mg zinc
  • 3.788 mg copper
  • 3.837 mg manganese
  • 14.3 mcg selenium
  • 0.078 mg thiamin
  • 0.241 mg riboflavin
  • 2.185 mg niacin
  • 0.254 mg pantothenic acid
  • 0.118 mg vitamin B6
  • 32 mcg folate
  • 12 mg choline
  • 0.1 mg vitamin E
  • 2.5 mcg vitamin K

Health Benefits Of Cocoa Powder

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1. Reduces high blood pressure

Cocoa powder can help lower blood pressure by improving nitric oxide levels in the blood. This is due to the presence of flavanols, which can enhance the function of your blood vessels and lower blood pressure. The flavanol content between 30 to 1,218 mg in cocoa can significantly reduce blood pressure with an average of 2 mmHg [1].

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2. Lowers depression

Cocoa powder contains flavanols, which has the ability to elevate mood and eliminate symptoms of depression. Cocoa powder further boosts serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter which acts as an antidepressant. A study found that consuming cocoa increases calmness and contentment, thus improving psychological well-being [2].

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3. Aids in weight loss

Another benefit of cocoa powder is that it helps in managing weight by reducing appetite, regulating the use of energy, and increasing fat oxidation and feelings of fullness. A study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine showed that people who ate more chocolate frequently had a lower BMI (Body Mass Index) compared to people who ate less chocolate [3].

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4. Improves heart health

The flavanol content in cocoa has been found to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol which further lowers the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke and other heart diseases. Flavanol relaxes and dilates the blood vessels, which improves blood flow to the heart [4].

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5. Controls type 2 diabetes symptoms

Studies have linked higher intake of flavanols with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Flavanols help improve blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation and lower insulin sensitivity. Consumption of cocoa has a positive impact on preventing and controlling type 2 diabetes [5].

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6. Prevents cancer

The cancer-protective properties are attributed to the flavanols in cocoa. The antioxidant effects in flavanols fight inflammation, protects cells against oxidative damage, stops cancerous cell growth, and induces cancer cell death [6].

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7. Enhances brain function

Cocoa has the potent ability to lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. The flavanols in cocoa can help improve brain function and blood flow by increasing the production of nitric oxide. This relaxes muscles of the blood vessels, thereby improving blood supply to the brain [7].

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8. Treats asthma

Cocoa contains anti-asthmatic compounds like theophylline and theobromine, which can benefit people with asthma. Theophylline helps in dilating the lungs by opening the airways and decreasing inflammation. Theobromine helps with persistent coughing [8].

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9. Protects against dental cavities

The anti-enzymatic, antibacterial and immune-stimulating properties in cocoa can contribute to oral health. Cocoa powder promotes healthy teeth by fighting bacteria that causes cavities and gum diseases.

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10. Improves skin

According to studies, the polyphenols in cocoa have been shown to benefit your skin in many ways. These include improving blood circulation in the skin, protecting the skin from UV rays, increasing skin hydration and improving skin texture [9], [10].

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Ways To Include Cocoa Into Your Diet

  • Consume dark chocolate
  • Mix cocoa powder in a glass of milk and make chocolate milkshake.
  • Add cocoa powder to puddings, sweets and desserts.
  • Add cocoa powder to smoothies to get a rich chocolate taste.
  • Sprinkle cocoa powder to your fruit bowl.

Cocoa Powder Recipe

Double-chocolate chip muffin

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ¼ cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cup chocolate chips

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.
  • In a bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and in another bowl, combine all the wet ingredients.
  • Mix both well separately.
  • Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix not more than 10 minutes.
  • Add the chocolate chips to it and slowly mix the batter.
  • Grease a muffin pan and add flour to it.
  • Slowly add the batter to the muffin pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips on it.
  • Bake for 18 to 20 minutes.

How Much Cocoa Powder To Consume A Day?

As recommended by the European Food Safety Authority,

2.5 g of unsweetened cocoa powder or 10 g of dark chocolate which contains at least 200 mg of flavanols is required to be consumed per day to reap most of the health benefits.

Did You Know?

When the cocoa beans are processed and heated to make chocolates, most of the nutrients are lost and its often treated with alkaline to lower the bitter taste. As a result, the flavanol content is decreased by 60 per cent.

Story first published: Monday, January 20, 2020, 17:00 [IST]
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