Did you know that dark chocolate contains more antioxidants than acai and goji berries? Cocoa powder is rich in flavonoids, a plant chemical known to help fight a variety of diseases. Dark chocolate contains polyphenols, the same antioxidants found in green tea and red wine; stearic acid, a type of fat that does not raise cholesterol; and flavonoids, which reduce the stickiness of platelets, inhibiting blood clotting and reducing the danger of coronary artery blockages, according to Dr. Andrew Weil. Cocoa is particularly known for its ability to thin and relax blood vessels, proving helpful at preventing heart disease and hypertension. Dr. Weil recommends chocolate containing over 70% cocoa and he loves the high-quality chocolate from Venezuela.
According to a study that used the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) method of measuring antioxidant levels in several fruits including acai, pomegranate, and blueberries, cocoa powder and dark chocolate were the most concentrated source of antioxidants and total flavanol content. Raw coca powder had an ORAC score of 95,500 compared to goji berrie s and acai that scored 25,300 and 18,500 respectively. Specifically, cocoa and chocolate contain some of the highest concentrations of procyanidin flavanoids: catechin and epicatechin which have potent antioxidant and antiplatelet activities following consumption.
Dr. Oz touts cocoa as being helpful in lowering blood pressure, fighting heart disease, repairing damaged skin, and boosting the feel-good chemicals endorphins and seratonin. In a recent study, researchers at Athens Medical School in Greece discovered that eating dark chocolate improves endothelial function, the function of cells in blood vessel walls. Another study in France found the flavanols and procyanidins in cocoa and chocolate to inhibit the growth and synthesis of human colonic cancer cells.
Cocoa powder and chocolate are made from an extract of the seeds of the fruit of the Theobrama Cacao tree. Thus being the “whole food” form of chocolate, cacao seeds provide superior nutrient value even beyond that of its derivatives cocoa powder and chocolate. Whole cacao beans and nibs are high in fiber and magnesium and contain a number of essential minerals including sulfur, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese. Organic raw cacao is best to avoid toxic chemicals from irradiation and other chemicals that are typically sprayed on cocoa beans.
Raw cacao comes without the fillers, preservatives, flavor enhancers and sugar contained in the commercial chocolate we are used to consuming. It is for this reason that the health benefits are so great, however cacao is often found to have a strong and bitter taste. Here are a few great tasting options for incorporating raw cacao into your diet: