Sunday, February 20, 2011

Raw Cocoa: A Super Nutrition. It's Purist Form for Maximum Benefits

The chocolate evolution is gaining speed. Cocoa is making its way through the world of nutrition. Yes, cocoa is chocolate but in its purest form. It is un-roasted and only a few subdued ingredients like sea salt.

Cocoa has been used for thousands of years. Research has recently  shown us that dark chocolate has the ability to reduce blood pressure, that is provided it has at least 70% and above of cocoa. Now enters cocoa with its wondrous health benefits.

Native Americans have acclaimed the wonders of cocoa  through pottery, stone work and stories handed down from one generation to the next.

What makes Cacao a Medical Asset ?

Cocoa  has been demonstrated in science that its Cocoa Flavonols(CF) can improve cognitive function. In a double blind study consisting of 30 healthy adults. The adults had consumed either 520mg or 994mg of CF mixed into a beverage. Both groups of the adults had shown improved cognitive function,and  mental fatigue reduction was found only in those who had consumed 520mg. Those who consumed 994 mg of CF showed increased visual information processing but produced more errors in one of the cognitive tests.This suggests taking flavanols in moderation is much better than taking it in excess.

Cacao also contains potassium, phosphorus, copper, iron, zinc and magnesium, that aids cardiovascular health.It helps lower blood pressure and lowers risks of death from heart disease.

Raw cacao ranks first for nutritional content in comparison to other chocolates. Raw chocolate keeps almost all of its nutritional value due to low processing temperatures than chocolate which is roasted.

Cacao also contains all those nutrients in high doses for health such as vitamin C and omega 6 fatty acids. Studies published in 1996 showed that chocolate contains anandamides that act at the same site in the brain as cannabis. But later studies concluded that these constituents are too low in chocolate to produce any pharmacological effect.The most likely reason for its role in elevating mood and the chocolate craving phenomenon is that it stimulates the release of endorphins.

The Chocolate Information Center has the following facts:

An average size dark chocolate bar contains between ten to sixty milligrams of caffeine. The normal cup of coffee has 175 milligrams.

Dark chocolate weighing forty grams is equal in caffeine to one cup of decaffeinated coffee.

A cup of hot chocolate contains four to five milligrams of caffeine.

Cacao is a great source for antioxidants if it is certified organic raw cacao according to the ORAC scale.

The ORAC scale was developed by USDA researchers. It is a test in which measures the oxygen radical absorption capacity in different foods. It is called the ORAC scale and is one of the most sensitive and reliable methods in measuring antioxidant capacity. The higher the score the higher the level of antioxidants.

Consumption of raw cacao is fine but is limited to forty grams at the highest amount each day. Which basically translates to four or six heaping teaspoons each day.

Cacao can cause over stimulation in the central nervous system along with heart and brain. When this happens you can feel hyperactive followed by feeling drowsy. Which is the side effect of consuming too much cacao. The nibs are not as strong but only four or five are suggested.

Scientific Studies

In February of 2008, Dr. Gabriel Cousens had conducted a study on the health benefits. Dr. Cousens discovered that raw cacao is safe for people with diabetes as it raises blood sugar only slightly and it can heighten insulin sensitivity.To date this one of the only specifically health benefit studies on raw cacao.

The antioxidants and massive amount of magnesium along with other phytochemicals balance blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, remove arterial plaque and promote general health by reversing heart disease.In healthy humans, flavanol-rich cocoa dilates vessels via nitric oxide.This could be one of the explanations of how it provides benefits to the heart. 

A Harvard study was conducted on the Kuna Indian tribe located off the coast of Panama. The tribe lived in an area abundant in cacao trees. They consumed five cups of the cacao in a drink form each day. The tribe had shown lower rate occurrences of major diseases and longer life span.

Notable Health Benefits

The Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism signifies that the flavanols in the cacao may aide in the prevention of additional neural damage in case of stroke. This could suggest that the flavanols in cacao provide such  protection. Cacao was used in the study.

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition had shown that the consumption of cacao improves heart health. Blood pressure becomes decreased and endothelial in overweight adults is also improved.

An article in Nutrition and Metabolism had noted that short term feeding trails show that cacao possibly have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system of lowering blood pressure, anti-inflammation, anti-platelet function, higher DLD, decreased LDL oxidation. The larger part of the study on the flavonoids showed that they could decrease the risk of cardiovascular death.

The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry in an article titled "Cacao has more phenolic phytochemicals and a higher antioxidant capacity than teas or red wine" notes that cacao has found to contain one of the highest antioxidant levels on the planet, surpassing red wine, green tea and other exotic fruit.

An article in Journal Arteriosclerosis notes that the antioxidant effects of cacao are helpful in arteriosclerosis. The effects were far greater than other well known antioxidant substances of vitamin C, E and probucol.

Free Radical Biology Medicine had published that the cacao may actually lower oxidative stress in strenuous activities which would allow athletes to recover much faster. The flavanols in the cacao when used as a drink for an example, lowers the plasma level of F(2)-isoprostanes.

Experimental Biology Medicine had noted that the procyanidin in the cocoa have shown to stop cataract formation in diabetic lab rats.
Taking a piece of raw cocoa everyday is a good alternative to eating other sweet food like cake for example as it improves disposition and helps to concentrate among other things mentioned above. But be sure not to over indulge yourself!

1 comment:

  1. Raw cocoa has been really helpful for our health. Consider eating this food to get the nutrients you need. Thanks for sharing. Take the necessary supplements to maintain your health; check out Vitamins Canada now.