The cacao plant is the source of many useful products that are consumed in today’s food market the world over. Seeds from this plant contain fats that produce cocoa butter, which is then used to make chocolate. Chocolate is a staple in many homes where it used to make pastries, drinks, and toppings. However, cocoa has several other benefits beyond chocolate.
The cacao plant is rich in a plant nutrient known as cocoa flavanols. Cocoa flavanol products have been found to have numerous health benefits. Though many fruits and vegetables contain flavanol, cocoa has one of the highest naturally occurring concentrations of flavanol. Listed below are some of the benefits of consuming cocoa flavanols.
Improves Nitric Oxide Levels
Cocoa flavanols help improve the levels of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide relaxes and widens the arteries allowing blood to flow through your body with ease. This, in turn, tends to lower the blood pressure. Trails have shown that this was especially beneficial to people who suffered from high blood pressure and took to consuming products rich in cocoa flavanol more often.
Boosts Cognitive Function
The brain is an essential part of the body, and finding ways to improve brain functioning proves useful in one’s overall health. Flavanols from cocoa are able to achieve this by increasing the production of neurons. In addition to this, the increased nitric oxide levels in the body work to improve blood flow and increase the supply of blood to the brain. This then results in a reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and an overall improvement in cognitive function.
Good for the Heart
Just like the brain, the heart is a vital part of the body. Cocoa contributes to one’s cardiovascular health by lowering the risks of getting a heart attack or a stroke. The increase in nitric oxide from the flavanol-rich cocoa helps dilate the arteries, therefore, easing heartbeat and blood flow. Cocoa has also been found to reduce bad cholesterol, further reducing the risk of heart disease.
Helps with Mood and Depressive Symptoms
Cocoa’s benefits cut across blood flow and have been found to improve one’s emotional state and mood. This happens through the conversion of hormones into serotonin. Chocolate and other products enriched with cocoa can reduce the levels of stress as well as increase calmness and contentment, which leads to the overall psychological wellness of an individual.
Protects Against Cancer
Flavanol from cocoa has certain anti-cancer properties. It is said to exhibit antioxidant characteristics that protect cells from damage. It also works to combat inflammation, curb unchecked cell growth as well as prevent the spread of cancerous cells in the body.
With all these benefits, it is easy to justify stocking up on your favorite chocolate treats. And it will be with good cause as cocoa will not only satisfy your sweet tooth but also help boost your body’s immunity as well.
However, though flavanol is found abundantly in cocoa, the quantities required to make a significant impact are often not present in the ready-made products available in stores. This is because a large amount of flavanol is lost in various production processes, such as fermenting, drying, grinding, and packaging the cocoa beans.
In addition, the amounts found in these products often come with high levels of sugar and many calories, as is the case in cake and other pastries. The alternative is taking flavanols in their concentrate form through dietary supplements. In most cases, flavanol supplements are packaged as tablets or powders that can be dissolved in water, milk, and other beverages. Taking the beneficial flavanols this way ensures that you get a potent dose every day without all the downsides associated with taking flavanols in other forms.