Photo of Ice Cream

Health Benefits

Cacoa Beans

Cacao beans are, like the name suggests, the main constituent of that highly sought after treat, chocolate. Theobroma Cacao, literally translated to mean food of the Gods, was rare and highly sought after during the Aztec epoch in South America, and cups of cacao were offered up to the Gods during ceremonies. The cacao tree is native to South America and the West Indies, and the beans that are yielded from this handsome evergreen are saturated with antioxidants, magnesium, zinc, iron and other essential minerals. They are also low in fat.

Cacao beans are a good source of amino acids, protein, zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper and sulphur. They contain more antioxidants than green tea, goji berries, and most other foods that are touted as antioxidant superfoods. Cacao beans are a superfood in their own right. Aztec kings drank over twenty cups a day of pure chocolate to aid their strength and vitality.

Cacoa Nibs are the edible part of the cocoa bean that has been removed from the pod, fermented, dried, broken into pieces and shelled.

photo of Raw Cacoa Nibs

This minimal processing doesn’t destroy any of the nutrients in the cocoa. It develops the flavor of the nibs, decreases the bitterness and preserves them for shipping.

The nibs are rich in anti-oxidants; vital minerals such as potassium, calcium and magnesium; Vitamins E,D,C, A and B1; healthy fats (cacoa butter); and mood modifiers anandamide, phenylethylamine, and tryptophan and essential Omega 6 fatty acids.

Cacao contains the highest concentration of antioxidants of any food in the world. These antioxidants include polyphenols, catechins, and epicatechins. BY WEIGHT, RAW CACAO HAS MORE ANTIOXIDANTS THAN RED WINE, BLUEBERRIES, ACAI, POMEGRANATES, AND GOJI BERRIES COMBINED. Raw cacao has 540% MORE antioxidant power than organic Blueberries!

Ongoing research shows that eating raw or dark chocolate exerts beneficial effects throughout the whole body.  

Potent cacao flavanols from  raw dark chocolate have proven effective in lowering the risk from heart disease and sudden heart attack in recent studies. Writing in the journal Physiology and Behavior, researchers demonstrate that antioxidants released by consumption of cocoa products can improve multiple aspects of eyesight and cognitive performance. Scientists from the University of Reading found that improvements in visual function were evident for two and a half hours after ingesting foods high in cocoa flavanols(CF) and certain cognitive brain functions were enhanced. Small amounts of unsweetened dark chocolate can aid visual acuity and boost memory performance.

Prior research studies have shown that the consumption of CF have improved markers of blood hemodynamics, increasing both central and peripheral blood flow. Increased blood flow is an important factor in cerebral health and function and is also essential to the heart and enhanced eyesight.

Ongoing research shows that eating dark chocolate exerts beneficial effects throughout the whole body. High quality chocolate delivers disease-zapping antioxidants, lowers blood pressure and protects your heart and liver, all in one fell crunch.

Chemistry Central Journal brings even more good news for chocolate lovers, stating that dark chocolate contains more flavanols and polyphenols than fruit juice. “Cacao seeds are a ‘Super Fruit’ providing nutritive value beyond that of their macronutrient composition,” said Dr Debra Miller.  When researchers at the Hershey Center for Health & Nutrition™ compared the antioxidant activity in cocoa powder and fruit powders they found that, gram per gram, there was more antioxidant capacity, and a greater total flavanol content, in the cocoa powder.

Similarly when they compared the amount of antioxidants, per serving, of dark chocolate, cocoa, hot chocolate mix and fruit juices they found that both dark chocolate and cocoa had a greater antioxidant capacity and a greater total flavanol, and polyphenol, content than the fruit juices. However hot chocolate, due to processing (alkalization) of the chocolate, contained little of any.

Dr Debra Miller, the senior author of the paper, says that, “Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit” providing nutritive value beyond that of their macronutrient composition.” Which is great news for chocolate lovers.
Chocolate and Blood Pressure

The important thing is that the antioxidants in dark chocolate can significantly reduce blood pressure in patients with hypertension. According to researchers from the University of Adelaide, flavanols promote vasodilation, which may consequently lower blood pressure.

“There have, however, been conflicting results as to the real-life effects of eating chocolate. We’ve found that consumption can significantly, albeit modestly, reduce blood pressure for people with high blood pressure but not for people with normal blood pressure.” added Dr Karin Ried, who is program manager and research fellow of the PHCRED (Primary Health Care Research Evaluation & Development) program at The University of Adelaide. The analysis concluded that the pressure reduction caused by chocolate consumption was comparable to the effects of 30 minutes of daily physical activity.

Chocolate and Cirrhosis

There are also potential benefits for liver disease patients. Spanish scientists found that eating dark chocolate lowers blood pressure in the liver and reduces damage to the blood vessels of patients with cirrhosis.

A study which was presented at the International Liver Congress 2010 divided 21 cirrhotic patients with end stage liver disease into two groups. The first group received liquid meal containing dark chocolate, while the participants in the second group were getting liquid meal with white chocolate devoid of anti-oxidant properties. As a result, the patients receiving dark chocolate experienced a noticeable reduction of post-prandial increase in blood pressure in the liver.

One Square Is Enough

However, it is not necessary to eat huge quantities of chocolate in order to experience all the health benefits. In fact, just one small square a day may be enough to experience the health benefits chocolate is offering. A study performed in Germany that compared 19 357 individuals found that those who ate the most amount of chocolate (an average of 7.5 grams a day) were at a 39% lower risk of developing a heart attack than people with the lowest (1.7 grams) chocolate intakes.

To put things into perspective, the six grams of difference are the equivalent of one small square of a typical 100g chocolate bar.

“Our hypothesis was that because chocolate appears to have a pronounced effect on blood pressure, therefore chocolate consumption would lower the risk of strokes and heart attacks,” explains Dr Brian Buijsse from the German Institute of Human Nutrition, who led the research. “Small amounts of chocolate may help to prevent heart disease, but only if it replaces other energy-dense food, such as snacks, in order to keep body weight stable.”

But be Careful to understand what you are eating

The latest research demonstrates that natural cocoa powder and dark chocolate have significantly greater total flavanol (therefore greater health) values than the other fruit powders and juices tested, respectively. Natural cocoa powder and dark chocolate can thus be regarded as “Super Foods”. But consumers should be careful as products made with alkalized cocoa … those that have been heated or have been processed with refined sugar or milk have relatively low antioxidant and total flavanol values. Therefore, consumers should be aware that brands of cocoa powders and dark chocolate and derivative products may differ substantially in their nutritive value.

Nushie’s Natural Chocolate Ice Creamery is a valuable source of organic cacoa. It contains 6% pure organic cacoa which has remained in its raw form and therefore a high source of antioxidants and total flavanol content.

European Association for the Study of the Liver (2010, April 19). Potential benefit of dark chocolate for liver disease patients. ScienceDaily.

Retrieved March 24, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100415114323.htm

BioMed Central (2011, February 10). Chocolate is a ‘super fruit’: Rich source of antioxidants.ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 24, 2011,http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110207073748.htm

European Society of Cardiology (2010, April 4). Chocolate might reduce blood pressure and risk of heart disease, research suggests.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100330092809.htm

BioMed Central Limited (2010, June 28). Dark chocolate lowers blood pressure, research finds.ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 24, 2011 http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100628075746.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21324330

Source: Physiology & Behavior
Published online ahead of print: doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.02.013
Title: Consumption of cocoa flavanols results in an acute improvement in visual and cognitive functions
Authors: D. T. Field, C. M. Williams, L T. Butler
 

Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit”: A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products.

Authors: SJ Crozier, AG Preston, JW Hurst, MJ Payne, J Mann, L Hainly and DL Miller.

Chemistry Central Journal 2011,

http://journal.chemistrycentral.com/content/5/1/5

 Source

Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate, Say Goodbye to the Guilt
SuperFood: Raw Chocolate Nibs
Sunfood

European Association for the Study of the Liver (2010, April 19). Potential benefit of dark chocolate for liver disease patients. ScienceDaily.

Retrieved March 24, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100415114323.htm

BioMed Central (2011, February 10). Chocolate is a ‘super fruit’: Rich source of antioxidants.ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 24, 2011,http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110207073748.htm

European Society of Cardiology (2010, April 4). Chocolate might reduce blood pressure and risk of heart disease, research suggests.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100330092809.htm

BioMed Central Limited (2010, June 28). Dark chocolate lowers blood pressure, research finds.ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 24, 2011 http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100628075746.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21324330

 Source: Physiology & Behavior
Published online ahead of print: doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.02.013
Title: Consumption of cocoa flavanols results in an acute improvement in visual and cognitive functions
Authors: D. T. Field, C. M. Williams, L T. Butler
 

Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit”: A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products.

Authors: SJ Crozier, AG Preston, JW Hurst, MJ Payne, J Mann, L Hainly and DL Miller.

Chemistry Central Journal 2011,

http://journal.chemistrycentral.com/content/5/1/5

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