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Along with its well established role in the manufacturing of chocolate, the healing and medicinal benefits of cocoa have been appreciated since the ancient Mayan times. Discover the health benefits of cocoa below.
Cocoa is rich in flavonoids namely, procyanidin, catechin, and epicatechin, which have antioxidant properties and help in protecting the cells from damage while strengthening the heart. It also aids in improving endothelial function and stimulating the beneficial HDL cholesterol. Cocoa helps in preventing the formation of fatal blood clots, which can lead to stroke or cardiac failure. All these health effects help in preventing the proliferation of various medical conditions like atherosclerosis and thrombosis, which are some of the prime causes of more serious cardiovascular diseases.
Cocoa exhibits higher antioxidant activity than against black tea, green tea and red wine. Antioxidants helps to neutralize the oxygen-based free radicals that are present in the body.
The presence of major flavonoids like epicatechin and catechin in cocoa has shown beneficial effects in treating neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. These phytochemicals have synergistic qualities, which aid in reducing the oxidative stress on the mind, preventing neuronal cell damage and exerts a protective effect on the cellular membrane.
Cocoa has demonstrated beneficial effects in inhibiting the growth of cancer cells without affecting the growth of normal healthy cells. This is due to the chemopreventive and anti-proliferative qualities exerted by the flavonols and procyanidins present in cocoa. These healing effects have proven extremely valuable in the treatment of various types of cancer, including colon cancer and prostate cancer.
The consumption of cocoa has been shown to be effective in improving insulin resistance and glucose metabolism. The proanthocyanidins derived from cocoa help in inhibiting the cataract formation occasionally induced by diabetes. Cocoa exerts protective antioxidant activity in the treatment of long term diabetic complications such as diabetic nephrotoxicity. And consumption of flavonol-rich cocoa has shown therapeutic potential in improving the vascular function of diabetics on various medications.
Cocoa beans contain xanthine and theophylline, which aid in relaxing bronchial spasms and opening constricted bronchial tubes. This facilitates an easy flow of air and is valuable in curing various allergies, including asthma and shortness of breath. Consumption of cocoa therefore helps in providing relief from bronchial asthma.
Consumption of cocoa husk exerts therapeutic effects in treating chronic constipation and bowel function diseases. Regular consumption of cocoa products have shown to encourage better bowel function by reduction in time to have bowel movements, increase the frequency of bowel movements, and make a softer consistency of stool without inducing any other side effects like gastrointestinal discomfort or abdominal pain.
Consumption of cocoa helps in modulating lipid metabolism and reducing the synthesis and transport of fatty acids. It has also demonstrated an improvement in thermogenesis, the mechanism of heat production in white adipose tissues and the liver, thereby fighting obesity.
Consumption of flavonol-rich cocoa helps in decreasing the effects of UV- induced erythema and reducing skin roughness and scaling. It also aids in enhancing skin elasticity, hydration, and density. Epicatechin present in cocoa aids in stimulating the healthy flow of blood in the dermal tissues, and contributing to endogenous photoprotection. Cocoa is used in the preparation of various skin care products.
Consuming cocoa has shown antidepressant-like effects on certain physiological processes. Studies have shown that cocoa flavanols help to enhance mood, combat depression, and promote improved cognitive activities during persistent mental exertion. The presence of the neurochemical phenylethylamine in cocoa also helps in enhancing feelings of contentment and promoting aphrodisiac effects.
Cocoa has been shown to exert calming effects on people suffering from chronic fatigue. The attenuating effects of cocoa is attributed to the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin, anandamide and phenylethylamine in the brain, which exert protective effects from oxidative stress on the neuronal cells and helps in combating chronic fatigue syndrome.
Cocoa is considered valuable as a copper-rich component to be included in the diet to maintain normal levels of copper as well as a remedy for treating copper deficiency in such conditions. It helps in preventing and treating the diseases caused due to copper deficiency in the body such as anemia, neutropenia and leukopenia.
Cocoa can be consumed in many ways, one the most popular being the cocoa drink and of course in chocolates.
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