Many people consider chocolate a guilty pleasure. But in fact, raw chocolate in its natural state is one of the most nutritious foods available. Cacao is a powerful healing food and its health benefits are numerous.
Cacao comes from the beans of a evergreen tree “Theobroma Cacao” grown in tropical rain forest. Raw cacao beans are nutritionally dense power foods that have vital nutrients, antioxidants and enzymes. Unfortunately, most of these nutrients are destroyed when these beans are roasted, refined and chemically processed to make cocoa and chocolate. For amazing health benefits take raw cacao (butter, nibs or powder) that has most of these vital nutrients intact.
Powerful Antioxidant Properties
Cacao is more like a whole food as it supplies carbohydrate, protein, fiber and heart-healthy fat to your body. It is also rich source of essential vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B9, C, E) and minerals (magnesium, calcium, sulfur, zinc, iron, copper, potassium and manganese). On top of all this, raw organic cacao has an amazing ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) score, which refers to its powerful antioxidant properties that protects your body from the damaging effects of free radicals.
As a raw food cacao has over 300 nutritional compounds AND is one of the richest sources of antioxidants on planet earth.
Historically cacao and its products were given as a cure for a range of ailments from fatigue, indigestion, emaciation, and hemorrhoids to respiratory ailments, cancer, depression, and heart problems. Delicious and nutritious cacao can be a good addition to your diet to get following scientifically proven health benefits:
1. Cacao Protects from Free Radical Damage
Exposure to sun, environmental pollution, cigarette smoke, toxic chemicals, unhealthy foods and stress release free radical activity inside your body which can cause serious damage in the form of premature aging and chronic degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Cocoa has one of the highest levels of polyphenols that exhibit excellent antioxidant capacity to cease this free radical damage.
a. Cardiovascular system: Cacao reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease through several mechanisms.
i. It is rich in antioxidants flavonoids that help in reducing inflammation and plaque formation by preventing fat-like substances in the bloodstream to oxidise and clog the arteries.
ii. Flavanols and theobromine components in cacao enhance circulation by promoting vaso-dilation of the arteries. This helps in lowering of blood pressure, improving blood flow to the heart and reducing the risk of stroke.
iii. Additionally, essential fatty acids and fiber content of cacao plays a role in raising good (HDL) and reducing bad (LDL) cholesterol levels.
b. Nervous system: Cacao is high in resveratrol, a potent antioxidant that protects your nervous system by shielding nerve cells from free radical damage. In one study, flavanols found in cacao were found helpful in preventing additional neural damage in the case of a stroke. High magnesium content of cacao also helps in proper functioning of the central nervous system.
c. Skin: Cacao has flavonols that protect your skin against sun-induced damage. These also help in improving blood flow to the skin and increase your skin’s density and hydration. This mechanism helps to prevent wrinkles and makes your skin look younger.
2. Cacao Supplies Vital Nutrients
Cacao is loaded with essential minerals and vitamins that benefit every function of your body. All these nutrients found in cacao helps in improving your longevity.
a. Cacao is excellent source of vital electrolyte magnesium, which is involved in various important functions inside your body such as muscle relaxation, protein synthesis, metabolism and building strong bones and teeth. Magnesium is also required for optimal health and proper functioning of heart and brain.
b. Cacao is rich in potassium, a mineral that is required for proper functioning of various vital organs such as heart, kidneys etc.
c. Cacao has good amount of sulphur that is required for healthy nails and shiny hair. It also helps in maintaining a healthy liver and pancreas.
d. Cacao is also a good source of copper, which is important for oxygenation of red blood cells and aids in cellular energy production.
3. Cacao Lifts up Mood
Cacao boosts your mood naturally as it has phenylethylamine (PEA), anandamide and theobromine chemicals that are associated with a feeling of euphoria. These chemicals also stimulate brain to release natural pain and stress relieving chemicals i.e. neurotransmitters that promote an overall sense of well-being and alleviate depression.
4. Cacao Aids Weight Loss
High fiber content in cacao slows down the digestion and promotes a feeling of fullness that helps in better weight management. High chromium and coumarin content in cacao also aids weight loss. Some studies suggest cacao has monoamine oxidase enzyme inhibitors (MAO) and coumarin that work as appetite suppressants, so you can enjoy cacao 10 minutes before your meals to naturally control your hunger. See what other foods are well known for aiding in weight loss.
5. Improves Brain Function
Cacao’s high-flavanol content helps in improving blood flow to the brain and significantly improve cognitive function. It also contains some brain stimulants like caffeine and theobromine that helps in staying alert and focused.
6. Raises Insulin Sensitivity
Various nutrients found in cacao benefits diabetics by significantly increasing the insulin sensitivity. Besides high magnesium and chromium content in cacao help in better regulation of blood glucose levels. Here are other foods to improve insulin sensitivity.
7. Prevents Cavities
Cacao has theobromine that helps in preventing cavities by killing streptococci mutans, one of the main types of bacteria that are responsible for tooth decay.
8. Improves Circulation
Cacao improves circulation and blood flow to the heart and brain, which helps in lowering the oxidative stress of strenuous activities. These properties can help athletes to recover and also makes cacao useful in asthmatic type conditions where it can open up the lungs.
You can enjoy these health benefits of cacao by brewing a hot cup of cacao; putting it in your smoothie or brownies; or relishing a few squares of raw organic chocolate (an ounce) a few times per week. Research suggests that mixing dairy with cacao inhibits the activity of the phytochemicals responsible for the powerful antioxidant capacity of cacao. So, use milk substitute such as coconut milk, soy milk, rice milk or just plain water to get the most health benefits of cacao.
However, to get maximum health benefit of cacao eat it in moderation, sometimes the same components in cacao which helps in reducing anxiety and balancing of mood can also trigger migraines in sensitive people. Find out how you can improve your circulation naturally.