The evidence is growing that cocoa is a powerful therapeutic food. Including this treat in the diet may do more than satisfy a craving — it may also help to improve health. Cocoa can help lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health. The flavanols found in cocoa, purple grape juice and tea can stimulate processing of nitric oxide, which promotes healthy blood flow and blood pressure, and cardiovascular health.
In addition, recent research confirms other studies indicating that flavanol-rich cocoa may work much like aspirin to promote healthy blood flow by preventing blood platelets from sticking together.
EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY
- Unsweetened cocoa typically contains significant protein, about 7 or 8 grams per ounce. It is also low in carbohydrate — between 8 and 13 grams per ounce, with 50 to 60 percent or more of that carbohydrate coming in the form of fiber. Like other beans, cocoa contains many vitamins and minerals, including folic acid, niacin, zinc and magnesium.
The fats in natural cocoa also have healthy attributes. More than a third of the fat in cocoa is monounsaturated. An equal amount of fat in cocoa is in the form of stearic acid. Though saturated, stearic acid is a good fat, as it can reduce LDL cholesterol. Cocoa also contains the essential fat linoleic acid.
Good News for Cocoa Lovers
Cocoa also has strong antioxidant benefits, which have also been shown specifically to protect against LDL-cholesterol damage. One study showed that when a cocoa snack was substituted for a high-carbohydrate snack, it increased the “good” HDL cholesterol and reduced blood triglycerides. And, it did not increase LDL cholesterol despite being a higher-fat snack.
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Polyphenols in cocoa, similar to those in red wine, provide protection against blood-vessel problems, including heart disease. While cocoa has some very healthy attributes, eating it in a candy bar is not recommended since this usually includes a lot of sugar, bad fats and chemicals. Only buy pure cocoa — without sugar or dairy — and use it to make your own healthy desserts, sweetened with honey