Not to be confused with chocolate, cocoa refers only to the low-fat part of the finely ground cacao beans. Cocoa is rich in minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, copper and manganese. It is also a good source of selenium, potassium, and zinc.
There are many health benefits of cocoa. It is beneficial for the brain, cardiovascular system and can aid in skin healing. It also can improve mood and has protective effects on the nervous system.
Cocoa beans are the fermented seeds of the cacao tree, native to the Amazon. Today, it is produced across the globe, with around 40% percent harvested from Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia, Ghana, Brazil, Nigeria, and Cameroon.
Cocoa has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
It is rich in flavonoids (a group of water-soluble plant pigments that are beneficial to health). Flavonoids are polyphenols and have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties. They also help to maintain the health of small blood vessels and connective tissue, and some are under study as possible treatments of cancer. Studies have shown that cocoa has a higher antioxidant level than black tea, green tea, and red wine. Antioxidants help to neutralize the oxygen-based free radicals that are present in the body and can contribute to disease. The flavonoids (mainly procyanidin, catechin, and epicatechin) help protect your cells from damage while strengthening your heart. It helps in preventing the formation of fatal blood clots, which can lead to stroke or cardiac failure. These flavonoids have anti-platelet aggregating effects and modulate primary hemostasis, which is the measure of time blood takes to clot.
Cocoa also has neuroprotective benefits that may improve learning and memory functions. Consumption of cocoa-based products enhances the flow of blood to the brain and studies have demonstrated it’s potential for curing vascular disorders. The epicatechin and catechin in cocoa has shown beneficial effects in treating neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Another study showed that cocoa can improve both blood glucose and cholesterol levels- making it a beneficial food for both diabetics and those prone to cardiovascular disease.
Cacao beans contain theophylline and xanthine, which work to relax bronchial spasms and opening constricted bronchial tubes- allowing for better air flow through your lungs. Thus, can be helpful to those suffering from allergies and asthma.
Cocoa extracts have long been been utilized for their wound-healing properties in the manufacturing of natural medicinal products. These extracts also help in preventing the development of various types of bodily infections.
Consuming cocoa has shown antidepressant-like effects. Studies have shown that these flavonoids help to improve mood and fight depression. The neurochemical phenylethylamine in cocoa also helps in enhancing feelings of contentment and may have an aphrodisiac effect.
Cocoa has shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells without affecting the growth of normal healthy cells. Studies have provided evidence of it’s chemopreventive and anti-proliferative qualities. These healing effects have proven extremely valuable in the treatment of various types of cancer, including prostate and colon cancer.
Not only is cocoa good for your insides, but your skin as well! It helps to in decreasing the effects of UV ray- induced skin redness, and reducing skin roughness and peeling. It also aids in enhancing skin elasticity, hydration, and density. Therefore, it can be found as an ingredient in a variety of skin care products.
In honor of National Cocoa Day on December 13th, we invite you to try a healthier hot cocoa! A standard venti Starbucks version has a whopping 500 calories and 57 grams of sugar. Our version is much lower in calories, has all the health benefits of unsweetened ground cocoa powder…along with a few extra healthy ingredients to take this beverage to the next level in anti-inflammatory and immune system health. We used maple syrup instead of white sugar because it is less processed, high in antioxidants and naturally includes essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and manganese. It’s also shown not to raise your blood sugar level as quickly as sugar. The pure vanilla extract and cinnamon are high in antioxidants. The cinnamon also lowers blood sugar levels. The matcha powder and turmeric are both highly anti-inflammatory and shown to have numerous healthy benefits to the body. A delicious superfood drink that also satisfies your chocolate craving? Cheers to that!
Healthier Hot Cocoa
- 2 cups skim milk substitute any kind of milk if desired
- 3 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp green tea matcha powder
- 1/4 tsp ground turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbs pure maple syrup
- 1/2 oz dark chocolate, 60% cacao equivalent to 30 dark chocolate chips
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
heat milk and cocoa in saucepan over medium heat until bubbly
turn heat down to low, add in remaining ingredients
stir frequently for a few minutes until all ingredients melted and evenly distributed
pour into mug and top with sprinkle of cinnamon and shaved dark chocolate (optional)
Try blending with ice after cooled, for a frozen hot chocolate in warmer seasons.