We all know the good old saying “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.” But have you ever heard “A cup of cocoa at night, will keep the stress out of sight?” Chances are you haven’t. That’s probably because that saying doesn’t exist, although it should. As it turns out, a cup of cocoa on a cold night doesn’t just make you warmer and send your taste buds on a crazy tasty ride, there are also a few health benefits involved. However, the cocoa we drink today isn’t exactly what it used to be back in the old days.
Originally, cocoa was drunken cold with a paste made from cocoa seeds, water, cornmeal, and chili peppers. Sounds like the perfect drink for the winter holidays, right? Well, not exactly. This original recipe was created by the ancient Mayans around 2000 years ago, and while they liked this mixture of ingredients in a cup, the Europeans didn’t. When it was introduced in Europe around the 1500’s, the drink was modified and the ever so pungent chili pepper was replaced with sugar to make the drink more… drinkable. Then somewhere along the line, someone decided “Let’s drink this hot!” and most people agreed. The result was closer to the cocoa drink we enjoy today.
Most of you might be thinking that a cup of cocoa is just a delicious mixture of perfect ingredients designed to make you question the taste of every other dessert you have ever had, and this quite possibly might be true. But as it turns out, a cup of cocoa has some health benefits in it, too. It’s not a specific type of cure for some illness or disease, but each cup of cocoa offers a boost to your overall wellness by introducing certain ingredients and minerals into your body which can be very beneficial for your health.
The Health Benefits of Cocoa
The moment you mention cocoa or chocolate, a heard of people shows up out of nowhere and starts telling you about how bad and terrible chocolate is for you. There are two problems with this anti-cocoa ideology. The first is that the unhealthy aspect of chocolate doesn’t come from cocoa; it comes from all the added sugar and other ingredients that chocolatiers add to their creations.
The second is the overall demonization of chocolate and how quickly it’s spread as an unhealthy food without everyone knowing the facts. It sort of became a stereotype that chocolate is bad for you. The reality is that an excessive amount of chocolate is bad. If you limit yourself and part take in a healthy diet, chocolate will offer you plenty of benefits which are derived from cocoa.
Cocoa powder, derived from the cocoa bean, contains numerous ingredients in it that can offer you healthy benefits. Zinc, iron, potassium, magnesium, tryptophan, serotonin, and cocoa butter can all help your body function the right way and stay healthier longer. Let’s take a look at some of the specific benefits that cocoa has to offer.
The antioxidants and flavonoids found in cocoa powder can help prevent diabetes. There is a plethora of evidence that shows a major connection between cocoa and its ability to reduce risk factors which are related to diabetes. Furthermore, consumption of cocoa helps utilize the hormone insulin much better, which results in easier management of diabetes through blood sugar control.
Reduced Risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease
Restricted blood flow to the cerebral artery in the brain is one of the major factors involved in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Regular consumptions of cocoa rich in flavanols can increase the blood flow to the cerebral artery by up to 10%. This extra flow of blood to the brain will help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease in the future.
Recent research has found that cocoa contains nearly twice as many antioxidants in it as red wine. This concentration of antioxidants is even higher than those found in green tea and black tea. Keep in mind that the quantity of antioxidants correlates to hot cocoa because more antioxidants are released during the heating process. Antioxidants prevent other molecules in your body from oxidizing, which helps you fight a wide range of illnesses and chronic diseases.
Another fantastic benefit which comes from cocoa powder is its ability to stabilize and lift your mood because of phenethylamine. Phenethylamine is a neurotransmitter found in the brain which helps control your mood and can act as an anti-depressant. Furthermore, cocoa contains endorphins which are similar to those being released during laughter, exercise, or even during sex. Serotonin is also another chemical which is found in cocoa powder that is often prescribed as an anti-depressant.
Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
Cocoa contains polyphenolic flavonoids. These antioxidants are known for their ability to prevent heart disease and other heart conditions. Consuming cocoa can decrease LDL cholesterol, known as the bad type of cholesterol, and boost HDL cholesterols, the good type of cholesterol. The reduction of bad cholesterol and increase of good cholesterol can lead to lowered blood pressure, resulting in lowered risks of heart diseases.
Cocoa In Conclusion
Cocoa can be a tasty treat and it can help you become healthier. However, you have to pay close attention to how you consume this delicious drink. Mixing cocoa powder with whole milk and adding whip cream will pretty much nullify any positives that can be derived from it by adding a bunch of saturated fat and sugar which isn’t good for you at all. You should always look for 100% cocoa mixtures with as little sugar as possible. Always heat up your drink to release all those antioxidants.
Furthermore, you can even look for less processed or unsweetened cocoa products; this will maximize the benefits you get from consuming cocoa.
As long as you limit yourself, enjoying a hot cocoa drink can become a healthy benefit rather than a guilty pleasure. So go ahead and pour yourself a cup, it’s good for you!