Cocoa was discovered thousands of years ago,
Initially in the South American cultures. Cocoa has evolved into a sweet treat we enjoy often over time. It was used in the past at ceremonies, royal feasts, and as currency according to the World Cocoa Foundation.11
Now we use it to satisfy a sweet tooth, cheer a friend up, as a tool for bribery or to celebrate birthdays and special holidays. Isn’t it crazy how some things evolve over time?
Obviously, chocolate is much more popular than raw cacao these days.
What's the difference between Cocoa, cacao and chocolate?
Cacao is a powder that is created from the cocoa bean that has gone through a process that eliminates the fatty fraction known as “cocoa butter”. However, they are often all used interchangeably, even in research!
But, What if I told you a piece of dark chocolate a few times a week could potentially be beneficial for your health?
However, I don’t mean a cookies and cream bar or even any dark chocolate bar.
It get’s complex — I recommend sticking to:
Feel free to click the links! You can see some of my personal favorites!
Have you heard of Polyphenols?
Okay, now we are getting fancy. Polyphenols are simply compounds that are found in vegetables, red wine, fruit and chocolate!
Research of polyphenols have shown that they offer potential prevention against cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Within polyphenols, flavonoids exist and within flavonoids, you will find Flavanols10 Flavanols are found within dark chocolate—raw cacao.
According to research some of these benefits are:
1. May decrease blood pressure and cholesterol
Polyphenol-rich dark chocolate has been shown to decrease fasting blood glucose levels, decrease systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure.
An increase of endothelial Nitric oxide production following the ingestion of the antioxidant cocoa flavanol (catechin and epicatechin specifically) seems to be the leading mechanism causing these effects.3,6,1These changes have been noticed in healthy individuals as well as those with hypertension, heart failure, or diabetes. 3,6,1
2. May aid in stabilization of weight
Seriously, is this anyone elses favorite benefit?! Struggling mid-way through your “diet”? Those that were given 81% dark chocolate actually lost and maintained weight in comparison to those that didn’t have chocolate – treat yourself! It makes these changes sustainable long term! 2
3. Blood Flow and Brain Function
A study was performed on 34 healthy elderly individuals, after one-week blood flow increased by 8% and after 2 weeks up to 10%! 4
There have also been studies conducted that show an increase in attention and ability to focus while decreasing mental fatigue with a high flavanol cocoa beverage.5
Some of my favorite ways to incorporate Cacao/Cocoa?!
Simply add oats, almond milk, Cacao chips/powder, chia seeds, and peanut butter. There are so many different things you can do with overnight oats — I’ll be sharing my top 5 recipes soon!
It’s starting to heat up in Texas. The last thing I want is a hot beverage or food, so I apologize in advance for all the cold varieties.
I love incorporating cacao powder with frozen cherries, and greek yogurt! It’s like drinking a dark chocolate covered cherry… add strawberries if you feel really creative!
The one pictured is Peanut butter powder, banana, cacao, and protein powder+almond milk! YUM!
Crazy, I know! If you know me at all or you’ve read about me, I have an obsession with coffee. Add some of this to your coffee!
Actually, they serve it this way in Belize, Cacao nibs or powder to place in your coffee.
Trying to ditch the mocha syrup? Try this–start small, it packs a punch!
Recent obsession is the French Press, so smoothe! My mother in law is a white chocolate mocha coffee drinker and she had it BLACK after using it!
Medical Disclaimer: The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice,diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
1 Ludovici, V., Barthelmes, J., Nägele, M. P., Enseleit, F., Ferri, C., Flammer, A. J., . . . Sudano, I. (2017, August 02). Cocoa, Blood Pressure, and Vascular Function. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28824916
2Bohannon, Johannes & Koch, Diana & Homm, Peter & Driehaus, Alexander. (2015). Chocolate with high Cocoa content as a weight-loss accelerator. International Archives of Medicine. 8. 10.3823/1654.
3 Almoosawi, S., Fyfe, L., Ho, C., & Al-Dujaili, E. (2010). The effect of polyphenol-rich dark chocolate on fasting capillary whole blood glucose, total cholesterol, blood pressure and glucocorticoids in healthy overweight and obese subjects. (6), 842-850. doi:10.1017/S0007114509992431
4Sorond, F. A., Lipsitz, L. A., Hollenberg, N. K., & Fisher, N. D. (2008). Cerebral blood flow response to flavanol-rich cocoa in healthy elderly humans. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 4(2), 433–440.
5Kennedy D. O. (2019). Phytochemicals for Improving Aspects of Cognitive Function and Psychological State Potentially Relevant to Sports Performance. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 49(Suppl 1), 39–58. doi:10.1007/s40279-018-1007-0
6Belz, G. G., & Mohr-Kahaly, S. (2011, December 14). Cacoa and dark chocolate in cardiovascular prevention? Retrieved from https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/abstract/10.1055/s-0031-1292826
10 Pandey KB, Rizvi SI. Plant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2009;2(5):270–278. doi:10.4161/oxim.2.5.9498
11 History of Cocoa. (2018, August 15). Retrieved from https://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/blog/history-of-cocoa/