cocoa, highly concentrated powder made from chocolate liquor—a paste prepared from cocoa beans, the fruit of the cacao—and used in beverages and as a flavouring ingredient. Cocoa is the key ingredient in chocolate and chocolate confections.
The cocoa bean is the seed of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao), a tropical plant indigenous to the equatorial regions of the Americas. From the processed cocoa bean comes the fluid paste, or liquor, from which cocoa powder and chocolate are made. Chocolate is sold directly to the consumer as solid bars of eating chocolate, as packaged cocoa, and as baking chocolate. It is also used by confectioners as coating for candy bars and boxed or bulk chocolates, by bakery product manufacturers and bakers as coating for many types of cookies and cakes, and by ice-cream companies as coating for frozen novelties. Cocoa powders, chocolate liquor, and blends of the two are used in bulk to flavour various food products and to provide the flavours in such “chocolate” products as syrups, toppings, chocolate milk, prepared cake mixes, and pharmaceuticals.
Four Quick Facts About Cocoa.
Cocoa is thought to have first been used by the Maya civilization of Central America.
It was introduced to Europe by Spanish conquerors in the 16th century and quickly became popular as a health-promoting medicine.
Cocoa powder is made by crushing cocoa beans and removing the fat or cocoa butter.
Today, cocoa is most famous for its role in chocolate production. However, modern research has revealed that it does indeed contain important compounds that can benefit your health.
Here are 11 health and nutrition benefits of cocoa powder.
1. Rich in Polyphenols That Provide Several Health Benefits
2. May Reduce High Blood Pressure by Improving Nitric Oxide Levels
3. May Lower Your Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke
4. Polyphenols Improve Blood Flow to Your Brain and Brain Function
5. May Improve Mood and Symptoms of Depression by Various Means
6. Flavanols May Improve Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
7. May Aid Weight Control in Many Surprising Ways
8. May Have Cancer-Protective Properties
9. Theobromine and Theophylline Contents May Help People With Asthma
10. Antibacterial and Immune-Stimulating Properties May Benefit Your Teeth and Skin
11. Easy to Include in Your Diet
The Bottom Line
Cocoa has captivated the world for thousands of years and is a big part of modern cuisine in the form of chocolate.
Health benefits of cocoa include decreased inflammation, improved heart and brain health, blood sugar and weight control and healthy teeth and skin.
It’s nutritious and easy to add to your diet in creative ways. However, make sure to use non-alkalized cocoa powder or dark chocolate containing more than 70% cocoa if you want to maximize health benefits.
Remember that chocolate still contains significant quantities of sugar and fats, so if you’re going to use it, stick to reasonable portion sizes and combine it with a healthy balanced diet.