Health Benefits - Raw Cacao Powder

Cacao is the most antioxidant-rich food in the world

The natural color of raw cacao powder is light brown. Cacao color doesn’t look like much, but even a slight processing like alkali-processed “dutched”cacao powder significantly destroys the antioxidants content. Light brown raw cacao powder with a pH of about 5.3 has the highest ORAC and total polyphenols and flavanols (including procyanidins).

When it come to cacao health benefits, organic cacao powder has the edge over traditional cacao powder that has been grown using synthetic herbicides, pesticides, genetically modified organism (GMO) and fertilizers.

 

Cacao beans known to have hundreds of health benefits compounds. Some of these include, phenylethylamine, theobromine, and numerous polyphenols, like powerful flavonoids. Cacao contains, fiber, vitamin B1, B2, B5, B3, B9, E and minerals. It also contains a healthy dose of potassium, manganese, phosphorous and zinc. Calcium and magnesium are also present in cocoa.

Chocolate for years it was consider the favorite food for many people. Then many sources said that chocolate was bad for our health. For decades, it occupied the "least recommended" tip at the top of the food pyramid. After most people have avoided it for years - or felt guilty whenever they indulged - chocolate's reputation has taken 180 degree turn.

Cacao Antidepressant Benefits

Cacao beans are considered to be nature's anti-depressant. These beans contain dopamine, phenylethylamine (PEA) and serotonin, all of which are used to promote positive mental health and moods. In addition to this, these beans also contain monoamine oxidase inhibitors and amino acid tryptophan. Monoamine oxidase (MOA) inhibitors work to keep dopamine and serotonin in the bloodstream longer, which could ease depression and promote feelings of well being. Tryptophan is important in the body's production of serotonin. Cacao contains theobromine and phenylethyamine, making it a good food for people suffering from low vibrational states such as anxiety, sadness and depression.

Cacao Energy Drink

Cacao beans reduce anxiety while simultaneously promoting alertness. A smoothie of organic cocoa powder can provide the same energy as a cup of coffee. However, due to the fewer stimulants in organic cocoa powder, there is no strong crash afterward, as there is with a cup of coffee.

Cacao and the Brain

Drinking two cups of hot dark chocolate a day may help older people keep their brains healthy and their thinking skills sharp, according to a study published in the August 7, 2013, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"We're learning more about blood flow in the brain and its effect on thinking skills," said study author Farzaneh A. Sorond, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School in Boston and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow. This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer's."

Cacao and Weight Loss

A good number of the health benefits that are known to be contributed to cocoa beans indicate a possibility that they could be a weight loss aid. Research shows that the polyphenols in cocoa beans might improve sensitivity to insulin. Scientists are currently studying the connection between obesity and a condition known as Insulin Resistance Syndrome. Increased insulin sensitivity, from cocoa beans or dark chocolate for example, may support weight loss efforts. Moreover, the natural anti-depressants found in cocoa beans might make it easier for individuals to stay on track with their diets.

Cacao Superfood Antioxidant

Raw cacao powder is the most superfood antioxidant rich food in the world. Its organic cocoa powder, for instance, contains an ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) score of 95,500 µmol per 100g, while cacao nibs contain a lower but still impressive 62,100 µmol per 100g. To put these numbers in perspective, goji berries (the highest non-cacao source of antioxidants) score 25,300, acai berries score 18,500, and blueberries - famous for their antioxidant content - score 2,400.

Many of the antioxidants present in cacao are flavonoids, including anthocyanidin. Like all antioxidants, these flavonoids are intimately involved in the prevention of free radical damage, but they also have a central role in boosting collagen protection. This means that antioxidant-rich foods like cacao are not only good at guarding us from cancer and other degenerative diseases, but also provide us with many anti-aging benefits.

Recent research reveals that cocoa are perhaps the best source of antioxidants of all foods, containing up to ten percent antioxidant concentration levels. That is three times more antioxidants than green tea and twice the amount in red wine. Blueberries are often said to be a great source of antioxidants, however, while domestic blueberries have 32 antioxidants, and wild blueberries have 61, cocoa bean have over 620!

 

Antioxidants have several health benefits. They protect against cell damage directly related to aging and reduce the risks of several kinds of cancer. Antioxidants also help regulate cholesterol levels.

Cacao Anthocyanidins and Skin Aging

Anthocyanidins are part of a general class of chemical elements called flavonoids or bioflavonoids. The big deal about these nutrients is their antioxidant values.

 

Scientific publications suggest that anthocyanins from plants, like cacao, can prevent skin aging and UV-induced skin damage, particularly by preserving their natural temperature, acidity conditions (pH <6 ), and light. Stabilizing anthocyanins by preserving their natural acidity conditions provide a strategy for protecting their natural structural integrity, function, and color.

 

The stability of this powerful anti-aging anthocyanidins is dependent on pH. At a low pH (acidic conditions), anthocyanidins are present, whereas at a higher pH (pH>6) (basic conditions) anthocyanidins are no longer present.

The known antioxidant power of anthocyanins has led researchers to study their potential in preventing skin damage such as UV-induced reddening of the skin, skin cancer, and photoaging.

 

The most external layer of the skin, is mainly composed of keratinocytes and is directly exposed to environmental aggressions. The layer right underneath the most external skin layer is rich in structural proteins, such as collagen and elastin, and gives the young skin its characteristic strength, extensibility, and elasticity. Skin aging is an natural biological process, which inevitably starts once a person reaches puberty and is manifested by the appearance of skin wrinkles, dryness, thinning of the skin, and uneven pigmentation.

Structural stability of cacao anthocyanins highly depends on the pH of the cacao beans in which they are found, anthocyanins tend to be more light- and heat-stable. Upon cacao intake, anthocyanins are absorbed throughout the stomach and then the small intestine. Upon absorption, cacao anthocyanins are rapidly found in the blood circulation intact eventually reaching the skin in about 5–8 hours following intake.

A number of factors can accelerate the natural skin-aging process. The most important accelerating factor of skin aging is exposure to sunlight UV radiation, although diet and smoking can also play a key role in enhancing the appearance of signs of skin aging. It is well known that the short-term exposure to high doses of UV radiation triggers the various inflammatory skin pathways and damage to collagen within our skin. Especially sunlight UVB radiation (290–320 nm). The sunlight UVA radiation (320–400 nm) is less powerful than UVB, but can penetrate deeper into the skin. In addition, the long-term exposure to high levels of UV radiation can lead to accelerated skin aging (photoaging), abnormal thickening of the outer layer of the skin, and precancerous lesions, such as skin cancer.

Cacao and Your Age-Defying Collagen  

Collagen keeps skin firm and flexible. The years go by and somehow your skin does not look the same as it used to. No matter how clean your diet is or how well hydrated you are, the fact is that sunlight accelerates internal changes to the skin leading to fine lines, sagging, and dryness. In large part, the problem involves a protein called collagen, which provides the magic mix for skin that is both flexible and firm.

Anthocyanins found in cacao repair damaged collagen fibers and allow us to recapture our beauty from within. A daily intake of cacao powder slow down the the natural aging process and help rebuild our tissues from the inside.

Supplementing your body with Anthocyanins,  vitamin C and drinking water (calculate your body weight in pounds, divide it by 2 and drink that many ounces of water each day) can improves skin appearance in terms of wrinkles, dryness and firmness.  

Cacao and Resveratrol

People in general often associate resveratrol with red wine, they do not know that raw cacao beans also contain a high amounts of this wonderful nutrient that helps develop a healthy heart and also helps shed some weight. Thick skin Muscadine grapes have the highest concentration of resveratrol, and researches have confirmed that individuals who consume red wine in moderate amount can reduce their chances of developing cardiovascular disorders by as much as 40%.

Resveratrol does not only help the body against cardiovascular infections, it also helps protect the brain and nervous system, neutralizing free radicals that damage the body’s cells and promoting longevity.

It is believed that resveratrol is present in an appreciable amount in cacao; nutritionists also warn that you must avoid bad chocolates that incorporate fruits into the processing and eat more of dark chocolates that contain less sugar and essential nutrients like resveratro.

Cacao beans, raw cacao powder and to much less degree dark chocolate are the major cocoa forms with the highest concentration of resveratrol. Semi sweet chips, milk chocolates, and chocolate syrup are believed to contain the least amount of resveratrol in the cocoa products. Dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and baking chocolate are believed to contain the resveratrol  contents of up to 15 micrograms to 19 micrograms per serving , this is quite small when compared with  832 micrograms of the same resveratrol contain in a single glass of wine. The resveratrol amount in cocoa is just so minute that excessive heat processing of cacao can destroy its anti-oxidative effects.

The best possible way to have all the resveratrol content in cocoa is to consume the cacao bean or raw cacao powder, if you want to have it in the chocolate form, you will need to consume around 6.7 grams of dark chocolate in 3 servings a week.

Increased glucose metabolism is one of the benefits of resveratrol; it helps your body metabolize glucose speedily so that they can be converted easily into energy rather than being stored in the liver and some other vital organs as fats. Resveratrol has been found to be helpful in the management of diabetes, and high blood pressure and research are still ongoing to determine its effectiveness in the help against some other life-threatening diseases.

This food is low in Sodium and Cholesterol. It is as well the good Protein, Potassium and Zinc source, and the good source of the Dietary Fiber, Magnesium, Iron, Copper, Phosphorus, and Manganese. Chocolate is actually “cacao” as well as comes from cacao tree, which forms pods and cacao nuts or seeds are grown in the pods. There needs to be something very special about the cacao as even tree is special. In place of pods growing out on limbs like apple, walnut and about every other type of nut or fruit tree, cacao tree grows the pods on trunk. In addition to, making it the odd looking tree and it as well grows these pods in different colors. Thus there are also many benefits of using cacao.

Cacao and Blood pressure

In 2017, a scientific meta-analyses involving 1804 mainly healthy participants revealed a statistically significant blood pressure-reducing effect of flavanol-rich cocoa products compared with control in trials of 2 to 18 weeks duration.

 

Consuming cacao flavanols lowers blood pressure, increases flow-mediated vasodilation and improves blood cholesterol profile.

Cacao and Cardiovascular Health

Two recently published studies in the journals Age and the British Journal of Nutrition (BJN) demonstrate that consuming cacao flavanols improves cardiovascular function and lessens the burden on the heart that comes with the aging and stiffening of arteries. The studies also provide novel data to indicate that intake of cocoa flavanols reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

As we age, our blood vessels become less flexible and less able to expand to let blood flow and circulate normally, and the risk of high bool pressure also increases. Heart artery stiffness and blood vessel dysfunction are linked with cardiovascular disease whic is the number one cause of deaths worldwide.

Cacao beans are also good for the cardiovascular system as they contain polyphenols, which has been proven to be quite beneficial for good heart health. Applying the Framingham risk score, which is a gender-specific algorithm used to estimate the 10-year cardiovascular risk of an individual) suggests that cocoa flavanols reduces age-related risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. 

 

Research indicates that polyphenols, as found in higher concentration in natural cacao beans and raw cacao powder with pH between 5.0 to 5.5, might reduce blood pressure. Interestingly these cocoa polyphenols have also been shown to inhibit ACE activity which may result in a decrease of blood pressure. ACE is centrally involved in the regulation of the rennin-angiotensin system. Angiotensin causes blood vessels to constrict resulting in increased blood pressure.

Cacao beans contain magnesium. This is another nutrient that promotes good heart health. Magnesium increases heart strength and improves its condition. This helps to ensure that the heart will continue to effectively pump blood. Magnesium also decreases the risk of blood clots. This in turn, it may reduce the risks of strokes and heart attacks.

Several studies support evidence about the potent activity of cacao polyphenols as inhibitors of platelet aggregation and adhesion, thus reducing clot formation.

Cacao Epicatechin

Cacao beans also contain a substance known as: epicatechin. This is a compound so rich in health benefits that a Harvard professor thinks it should be considered a vitamin! It is suspected that the effects of epicatechin are comparable to that of anesthesia and penicillin. Epicatechin is also suspected to reduce the risks of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and strokes. Due to its bitter flavor, epicatechin is often removed from common traditional processed cocoa products, therefore to reap the benefits of this compound it is necessary to purchase whole organic raw cacao powder.

 

Cacao Superfood Antioxidant Polyphenols

Cacao is a rich source of dietary polyphenols. In vitro as well as cell culture data indicate that cocoa polyphenols may exhibit superfood antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-atherogenic activity.

Cacao beans (Theobroma cacao) have been used for a long period of time as major ingredient of cocoa and chocolate. Cacao is a rich source of polyphenols. Cacao beans contain approximately 6–8% polyphenols by dry weight. Polyphenols identified in cacao beans and cacao products comprise mainly catechins, flavonol glycosides, anthocyanins and procyanidins. As far as procyanidins are concerned, up to decamer ones have been identified in cocoa.

 

Cacao Vitamins and Minerals

Nutrient-dense cacao contains over 300 important compounds, including protein, fat, certain B-vitamins and minerals such as calcium, sulfur, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and copper. This dense nutrient profile, coupled with its incredible concentrations of antioxidants, has long elevated cacao to 'superfood' status.

 

Vitamins and Minerals

Nutrient-dense cacao contains over 300 important compounds, including protein, fat, certain B-vitamins and minerals such as calcium, sulfur, magnesium and phosphorus.

Cacao and Magnesium

Cacao powder is a great food source of magnesium. Magnesium has been called the "anti-stres" mineral because it works as a natural tranquilizer to relax muscles. It plays a much larger role in the function and structure of the human body. Magnesium regulates blood sugar level, blood pressure, and heart rhythm, helps keep bone strong, aids muscle and nerve funtion, and is involved in energy metabolism and cardiovascular functions.

Although magnesium is found in many foods., much of the mineral can be lost through processing and refining. According to the USDA, nearly a third of Americans don't get the recommended daily amount of magnesium - 420 milligrams (mg) for men 30 and 320 mg for women over 30.

Studies point to magnesium's efficacy for treating both muscle and nerve pain, and for promoting muscle strength in male athletes. Researchers are also looking into the role of magnesium in preventing and managing high blood pressure and diabetes.

Cacao and Ingestion

Upon ingestion of cacao products in doses close to habitual diet monomeric and polymeric cocoa flavanols are rapidly absorbed. Thus, it was shown that procyanidins and monomers could be detected in the blood as early as 30 minutes and maximal blood concentration of these compounds was reached at about 2 hours after ingestion.

Cacao superfood antioxidant flavanols absorbed are normally cleared form the body over 24 hours, like the majority of dietary polyphenols.

The effect of milk, the most commonly used food element in cocoa products, on the bioavailability of cacao polyphenols has been studied with different cacao products. However, conclusions on this issue have remained controversial.

Cacao Tea

As our collective drinks of choice, coffee and tea is preferred over cacao tea drinks. But now, the rich cacao tea is making a comeback at cafes and shops across the country. Why cacao tea? Its dark chocolatey aroma is unbeatable to start with, and it gets better when it gives way to a floral, refreshing taste. Moreover, it gives drinkers quite the kick, thanks to its natural levels of caffeine and theobromine (a mild lasting stimulant), in addition to powerful antioxidants. In other words, give it a try! by:

  1. Dissolve raw cocoa powder into a pot of boiling water.

  2. Stir for 4 minutes or more over medium high heat.

  3. Add the milk, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and bay leaf. Cook for about 2 minutes to allow the spices and sugars to blend.

  4. Strain into a mug.

Cacao and Dark chocolate Caffeine

“Does dark chocolate have caffeine?” and if so, “How much caffeine is in chocolate?” Dark chocolate contains small amounts of caffeine. Chocolate also contains another closely related substance called theobromine in much larger levels, and the presence of these two closely related substances has been the cause of much confusion among chocolate lovers.

 

Caffeine is not the only stimulant found in cacao. Theobromine, a bitter compound, is the primary stimulant in cacao. Raw cacao powder is a valuable ingredient to keep in your pantry, especially if you are prone to spontaneously cook dark chocolate desserts or just favor a cup of hot cocoa. Unlike chocolate powder, raw cocoa powder typically has a bitter taste and requires sugar or another form of sweetener to make it palatable. Regardless of how you use it, raw cacao powder packs a slight caffeine punch.

Caffeine is found in the leaves, fruits and nuts of a variety of different plants, including coffee, guarana, tea, yerba mate, and approximately 50 other plants. Amazingly, caffeine is found in a wide variety of types of plants and on completely different sides of the world

The amount of caffeine in a dark chocolate depends in part on where the cacao beans for that  were grown. Cacao beans from some origins hold greater concentrations of caffeine than others, just as some beans have a higher or lower percentage of cacao butter depending on genetics and origin.

The exact amount of caffeine in raw cacao powder varies according to the manufacturer. In general, however, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 1 cup of dry, unsweetened cocoa powder contains 198 milligrams of caffeine. Each tablespoon of cacao powder has 12 milligrams of caffeine -- not a lot, but it can affect those sensitive to the compound. Consuming foods or drinks that contain caffeine stimulates your nervous system and your brain, which can help you fight fatigue. If you consume too much caffeine, you can experience side effects such as general anxiety and difficulty sleeping.

The amount of caffeine and theobromine in dark chocolate vary because different chocolate makers use different processes. The amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee or tea also varies based on processing.

Dark chocolate percentages are calculated by the percent of cacao components that are in a chocolate.  Generally, the lack of added cocoa butter is dark chocolate tend to have more caffeine than the milk chocolate bars.

Cacao Fat

All chocolate is made from the raw cacao bean! Cacao beans contain no sugar and between 12% and 50% fat depending on variety and growth conditions. Raw cacao is around 40% fat content (low compared to other nuts). There is no scientific evidence to implicate cacao bean consumption with obesity.

Cacao butter, also called theobroma oil, is an edible vegetable fat extracted from the cacao bean. It is used to make chocolate, as well as some ointments and pharmaceutical compounds. Cacao butter has a cacao flavor and aroma. Its best-known attribute is its melting point, which is just below human body temperature.

Cacao butter is obtained from raw cocoa beans, which are fermented, roasted, and then separated from their hulls. About 54–58% of the residue is cocoa butter. Chocolate liquor is pressed to separate the cocoa butter from the cocoa solids. The Broma process is used to extract cocoa butter from ground cocoa beans. Cocoa butter is sometimes deodorized to remove strong or undesirable tastes.

Cocoa butter contains a high proportion of saturated fats. Cacao butter, unlike cocoa solids, has no more than trace amounts of caffeine and theobromine.

 

Cacao Allergies

Are you worried about cacao allergies? Allergies to cacao in dark chocolate and raw cacao powder are rare. It is typically the case that the person is in fact allergic to milk, dairy products and chemicals mixed into the production of heat-treated processed chocolate bars.

Although health professionals do not deny the possibility of a cocoa allergy. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says only 4 percent of adults experience true food allergies. Of that small percentage, 90 percent react to one or more of only eight foods: milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, wheat, shellfish and fish. Often, those with "cocoa" allergies may be reacting to another ingredient in the cocoa products.

Raw Cacao vs Dutch Cacao

Raw cacao is naturally bitter and acidic just like cacao bean in the wild. Dutch process, relies on noxious alkaline chemicals that destroy the good nutrients in cacao including mostly antioxidants.

 

Dutch-processed cacao is treated with an alkalizing chemicals like ammonia and potassium carbonate, to increase the pH, and therefore lower its acidity, thus decreasing its bitter taste.

Dutch process cacao contains much lower amounts of antioxidants (flavonols). Research shown that about 60% of raw or natural cocoa's original antioxidants are destroyed by light Dutching and about 90% are destroyed by heavy Dutching. Most of the antioxidants (polyphenol) content is lost by the high alkalinity in the Dutching process. Cacao antioxidant is naturally acidic The natural acidity with a pH that range between 5.0 - 5.5. The highly processed Dutch cacao alters the acidity or pH to at least 7, and heavily Dutch cacao can be as high as having a pH of 8.

 

There are many combination of Dutch Cacao including:

Black Dutch Cacao means a cacao that’s been more heavily Dutched than usual, giving it very dark color.
Double-Dutch Cocoa Blend, a combination of regular Dutch-process cacao and black Dutch cacao
Triple Cocoa Blend refers to a blend of regular Dutch-process cacao, black Dutch cacao, and raw (natural) cacao powder.
Fatty Dutch cacao refers to a high-fat Dutch-process cacao.

Cacao and The Acid Test!

The acid-base chemistry of debittering is directly related to degradation of antioxidants phytonutrients.

Whatever proves to be the ultimate debittering solution, it is clear that renewed industry attention needs to be given to the acid-base and

other chemical aspects of the bitter and debittering aspects of cacao use. Chocolates with little-to-no sweeteners of any sort become health foods that can command premium markets in the marketplace.

The ideal chemical characteristics of raw cacao powder has the acidity at about the pH of 5.3.

Raw Cacao Powder & Chocolate

Raw cacao powder is sugar-free. However, the average milk chocolates have about 50% sugar, with some reaching unhealthy levels of 75% sugar. These addictive, diabetes-inducing, obesity-inducing, chocolates contribute to global consumption of added sugar.

"The high concentration of polyphenols, powerful antioxidants found in organic cacao powder, helps make skin more resistant to UV damage that leads to premature aging,"
 

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