Raw Cacao is Nature’s SuperFood Stimulant
Cacao, otherwise known as chocolate is one of the most sought after foods in modern society. This ancient food source has been used in many cultures and has been revered for its outstanding taste and surprising health benefits. Unfortunately, most industrialized countries have highly processed chocolate. This is then combined with a number of toxic ingredients in order to boost shelf-life and make it into a decadent treat. Discover the amazing taste and health benefits of pure chocolate.
The average American consumes 11lbs of chocolate each year (1). Most of this is in the form of highly processed candy bars, ice cream, pastries, etc. These products are loaded with trans-fatty acids, pasteurized dairy, sugar, artificial flavorings & preservatives that are highly toxic for human consumption.
The Health Benefits of Pure Chocolate:
Pure chocolate comes from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao plant. This plant grows naturally in South America, regions of Africa and the West Indies. This tree was cultivated in Mexico, Central and South America for many years before the discovery of America. Cacao products were a form of currency in the land during these times.
The cacao bean is the seed of the fruit and is often thought of as a culinary nut. Cacao is a superfood that is rich in anti-oxidant phytonutrients. Using raw cacao in the form of powder, bars, nips, etc. is a fantastically healthy approach. When cacao seeds are roasted they lose some of their nutrients and this processed form is called cocoa.
Cacao is Rich in Anti-Oxidants:
Cacao and cocoa are both high in flavonoid polyphenols such as epicatechin which have powerful anti-oxidant effects (2). The less processed the cacao is the more bioavailable the flavonoids are. Cooking and processing destroy the valuable anti-oxidants in the chocolate. The addition of milk (milk chocolate) inhibits the polyphenol absorption (3).
Cacao/Cocoa also contains theobromine, which is a bitter alkaloid that is similar to caffeine. Theobromine has powerful vasodilating effects and has been used in the treatment of swelling and edema (fluid collection in the body). Theobromine is also used as a diuretic and a natural cardiovascular stimulant that enhances oxygen flow to various regions of the body (4). This improved blood flow also stimulates cognitive function and improves memory. Theobromine also helps stimulate production of the healthy HDL cholesterol (5).
Cacao Improves Blood Flow:
The vasodilating effects of cacao/cocoa through theobromine help to relax smooth muscles and has been known to have a particularly good effect at reducing asthmatic symptoms. It has also been shown to powerfully lower blood pressure (6).
A study published in April 2007 in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that cocoa was more effective at lowering blood pressure than green and black tea. Both of these teas contain similar polyphenolic flavonoid anti-oxidants (7).
Although theobromine and caffeine are very similar alkaloids, it is not addictive like caffeine (8). It has a lesser impact on the central nervous system than caffeine. Theobromine does stimulate cardiovascular function to a greater degree than caffeine.
Although it is not considered physiologically addictive like caffeine, it does play a role in the “addiction” to chocolate (8). Most researchers credit the majority of American society’s fondness of chocolate to the sugar and artificial flavorings that usually comes with it.
The Kuna Indians and Cacao:
The Kuna Indian populations living on the islands off the coast of Panama are one of the heaviest cacao/cocoa consuming cultures in the world. Researchers from Harvard Medical School studied this culture to see what effects their consumption of cacao/cocoa would have on their disease rates.
They were found to have significantly lowering rates of heart disease and cancer in comparison to the group living on mainland who consume significantly less cacao/cocoa. The risk of death from heart disease and cancer on mainland Panama was 1280% and 630% higher respectively than on the islands (9, 10, 11, 12).
Sources For This Article Include:
1) Woreby, et al. Nutrition and Behavior: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach: Pg 184 Link here
2) Seis, et al. Cocoa polyphenols and inflammatory mediators. Am J Clin Nutr January 2005 vol. 81 no. 1 304S-312S Link here
3) Keen, et al. Cocoa antioxidants and cardiovascular health. Am J Clin Nutr January 2005vol. 81 no. 1 298S-303S Link here
4) Corti, et al. Cocoa and cardiovascular health. Circulation.2009; 119: 1433-1441. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.108.82702
5) Neufingerl N, Zebregs YE, Schuring EA, Trautwein EA. Effect of cocoa and theobromine consumption on serum HDL-cholesterol concentrations: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jun;97(6):1201-9. PMID: 23595874
6) Berends LM, van der Velpen V, Cassidy A. Flavan-3-ols, theobromine, and the effects of cocoaand chocolate on cardiometabolic risk factors. Curr Opin Lipidol. 2015 Feb;26(1):10-9. PMID: 25551798
7) Taubert D, Roesen R, Schömig E. Effect of cocoa and tea intake on blood pressure: a meta-analysis. Arch Intern Med. 2007 Apr 9;167(7):626-34. PMID: 17420419
8) Wikipedia: Theobromine Link here
9) Ellam S, Williamson G. Cocoa and human health. Annu Rev Nutr. 2013;33:105-28. doi: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-071811-150642. Epub 2013 Apr 29. Review. PMID: 23642199
10) Hollenberg NK, Fisher ND, McCullough ML. Flavanols, the Kuna, cocoa consumption, and nitric oxide. J Am Soc Hypertens. 2009 Mar-Apr;3(2):105-12. PMID: 20409950
11) McCullough ML, Chevaux K, Jackson L, Preston M, Martinez G, Schmitz HH, Coletti C, Campos H, Hollenberg NK. Hypertension, the Kuna, and the epidemiology of flavanols. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2006;47 Suppl 2:S103-9; discussion 119-21. PMID: 16794446
12) K Hollenberg N. Vascular action of cocoa flavanols in humans: the roots of the story. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2006;47 Suppl 2:S99-102; discussion S119-21. PMID: 16794463