5 Proven Health Benefits of Cocoa Supported by Science

Cocoa powder is a highly nutritious food item packed with essential minerals. Here are several scientifically supported health benefits.

5 Proven Health Benefits of Cocoa Supported by Science

Cocoa is derived from roasted and dried cacao beans, which are the fermented seeds of the cacao tree. These ground beans also contain cocoa butter, a natural non-dairy fat. However, many chocolates and cocoa products on the market may lack the original beneficial flavonols of cacao beans due to over-processing. Cocoa powder is rich in polyphenols, including catechins, flavonol glycosides, anthocyanins, and procyanidins. Here are five scientifically supported health benefits of unsweetened cocoa powder.

1. Enhances cognitive function

Enhances cognitive function

Cocoa is rich in polyphenols that have the potential to enhance blood flow to the brain. Numerous studies suggest that these polyphenols may reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases by improving brain function and circulation. Flavanols found in cocoa can traverse the blood-brain barrier, aiding in biochemical processes essential for neuron production and proper brain function. Additionally, flavanols stimulate the production of nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessel muscles, leading to improved blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain.

2. Potential for reducing blood pressure

Researchers suggest that consuming foods rich in cocoa may contribute to lowering blood pressure levels, as evidenced by a small study involving participants. A meta-analysis further supports this claim, indicating a potential positive effect on both systolic and diastolic blood pressure after consuming cocoa-based foods for seven days compared to black or green tea. These beneficial changes are attributed to the antioxidants present in cocoa, which enhance the production of nitric oxide, leading to relaxation of blood vessels.

3. Potential for lowering the risk of heart attack

Cocoa powder is rich in flavonoids like procyanidin, catechin, and epicatechin, known for their antioxidant properties. When consumed in moderation, cocoa powder can aid in preventing cell damage and strengthening the heart. Additionally, it may inhibit the formation of potentially life-threatening blood clots, reducing the risk of stroke or heart failure. A review article in Ahajournals supports the notion that cocoa can enhance cardiovascular health.

Potential for lowering the risk of heart attack

4. Potential for regulating cholesterol levels

Cocoa may exhibit hypocholesterolemic effects on cholesterol levels and hypoglycemic effects on glucose levels, as demonstrated in a 2004 study. This could lead to an increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels and a decrease in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels and triglycerides in the body.

5. Potential assistance with weight management

Research suggests that cocoa consumption may help prevent obesity caused by the intake of fat-rich foods. Cocoa may reduce the transport and synthesis of fatty acids and modulate lipid metabolism. Additionally, it can enhance heat production in the liver and white adipose tissues, a process known as thermogenesis. However, it’s essential to note that consuming cocoa in sugar and fat-rich meals may counteract its potential benefits for weight loss.