The plant of cocoa, Theobroma cacao, belongs to the family of Sterculiaceae and is native to south America. When the seeds are extracted from the fruits of the tree they are subjected to a multi step process involving fermentation, drying, roasting and grinding in order to obtain, as a final product, the cocoa powder that we can purchase in the shops. A fine, brown and scented powder that is commonly used for cooking, sweets, drinks but also as an ingredient of beauty cosmetics. Let’s see the properties of this delicious powder. Cocoa is a source of mineral salts such as magnesium, potassium, copper and iron but especially it is rich in antioxidants, mainly phenols in the form of epicathechins, that are easily absorbed by the body and can be found in blood already after 30 minutes from ingestion. These substances, once absorbed, reach rapidly the brain where they have a really beneficial action by making cocoa an amazing neuroprotective food. In fact, these antioxidant compounds induce neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity, namely the ability of the brain to regenerate and adapt, improve the blood flow and, according to scientific studies (Nehling et al, Br J Clin Pharmacol, Mar 2013), seem to act on particular parts of the brain involved in learning and memory. This behavior suggests a possible preventive role of cocoa against degenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer and dementia linked with aging. Cocoa, thanks to the antioxidants, is also able to improve the mood and protects the cardiovascular system by reducing the risk of stroke. Moreover, on the basis of scientific studies, cocoa is also able to decrease, during allergies, the release of immunoglobulin E, one of the main causes of these reactions, and to reduce the inflammatory processes by inhibiting the nuclear factor nf-kB, a protein that plays a pivotal role during inflammations (Latif et al, Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, Nov 2013). These characteristics indicate that cocoa has a beneficial action in case of allergies, chronic inflammations, anxiety and results able to counteract free radicals. But the amazing properties of cocoa doesn’t and here, cocoa has indeed a beneficial action on the gut microbiota, the name given by the scientists to indicate the intestinal flora, by stimulating the growth of good bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium with a well demonstrated prebiotic and anti inflammatory effect (Magrone et al, Front Immunol, Jun 2017). In addition to this, cocoa improves also blood circulation and is useful to reduce blood pressure. And what is really interesting is that this effect occurs to a greater extent in persons with hypertension and with high basic blood pressure values, on the contrary, in all the people with normal blood pressure values the intake of cocoa has just caused a very small, and we can say negligible, change in pressure (Ried et al, Cochrane Database Syst Rev, Apr 2017). Another product of the cocoa tree, the cocoa butter, is very used on skin, especially on lips, as a moisturizer and protective substance, but the benefits of cocoa for skin aren’t just limited to the topic application of its butter. Also eating cocoa powder may show a protective role on skin against UV ray damages thanks to its antioxidant properties. Finally, cocoa doesn’t threat the waistline, on the contrary, several scientific studies have demonstrated its action on the visceral fat by stimulating lipolysis, that is the fat removal, and by inhibiting the synthesis of fat (Katz et al, Antioxid Redox Signal, Nov 2011). And how to take cocoa? In the section Healthy food you can find a lot of delicious cocoa based recipes, our favorite is the Aztec chocolate, perfect for all seasons, but don’t forget the cocoa and ginger bonbons, a yummy and amazing snack, easy to prepare and with all the benefits of its incredible ingredients!
Mineral salts such as magnesium and iron, powerful antioxidant food with a demonstrated protective action on brain and heart, able to lower blood pressure, counteracts chronic inflammations, improves the mood and has a beneficial action in case of allergies, acts against fat accumulation and to reduce the waistline.