Ancient Aztecs and Maya called them cacahuat and considered them as coins, we are speaking about cocoa beans, the seeds of the cocoa tree, Theobroma cacao. The cocoa plant is native to South America and is characterized by elongated fruits with an orange-red color. Inside these fruits there are the cocoa beans that are the raw material of cocoa powder and chocolate that everybody knows. Actually, also the cocoa beans can be eaten after a natural fermentation process. You can find them in specialized shops and are a special snack for mid-morning or breakfast, rich in anti-aging substances and energy since they contain proteins, sugars, polyphenols, that are powerful antioxidants that in cocoa beans are present in a higher amount than cocoa powder and chocolate, which, instead, as a consequence of the processing, lose part of these precious substances. Cocoa beans are also a source of vitamins, especially group B, fibers, useful to counteract hunger and keep at bay the absorption of sugars by avoiding the dangerous blood sugar spikes, and mineral salts, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium (USDA Database – Cinquanta et al, Int J Food Sci Nutr, Nov 2016). Moreover, cocoa beans are rich in substances such as caffeine and theobromine, anti-inflammatory, useful to stimulate the nervous system, the attention, the cognitive functionalities and, according to scientific studies, also able to play a protective role on the brain by counteracting dementia and Alzheimer (Santos et al, J Alzheimers Dis, 2010 – Nehlig, Br J Clin Pharmacol, Mar 2013). Caffeine and theobromine in cocoa beans are in a higher quantity than the processed products such as cocoa powder and chocolate (Di Mattia et al, Front Immunol, Sep 2017). Cocoa beans are eaten raw, and in this case they preserve the maximum amount of antioxidants, or toasted. In this last case the antioxidants reduce but are still in a higher quantity than the more processed chocolate bars (Bauer et al, Oxid Med Cell Longevity, Mar 2016). Cocoa beans can be eaten alone, in the quantity of 4-5, or added to a plant based yogurt together with berries, fresh if seasonal or frozen, for a powerful antioxidant effect. In alternative, they can be added to smoothies, for examples a yummy and healthy smoothie can be prepared with almond milk, raspberries, fresh or frozen, and 2-3 cocoa beans. Finally a recommendation, although the cocoa beans are a healthy food, be careful if you suffer from hypertension, nervousness, sour stomach, in these cases it is better to avoid or limit the intake of cocoa beans since they can worsen the problem.
Source of antioxidants present in a higher quantity than cocoa powder or dark chocolate, against free radicals, rich in anti-inflammatory substances and able to stimulate cognitive functionalities, improve attention and have a protective role against dementia and Alzheimer, energy.