Health Benefits of Cocoa and Dark Chocolate
by Frances Bekele
Cocoa products can be very nutritious if not produced with large quantities of sugar and calorie-rich fillers. Chocolate is not high in cholesterol. Cocoa and its components (cocoa solids and cocoa butter) are not recognised as a source of trans fat in the diet. A 50g milk chocolate bar provides 10 percent of the UK Estimated Average Requirement of energy, 9 percent of protein, nearly 22 percent of calcium, more than 10 percent of iron and 25 percent of riboflavin, (for moderately active males 19–49 years) (COPAL website: http://www.copal-cpa.org/chocolate.php).
Chocolate is reputedly the richest source of the mineral magnesium, essential for mental health and heart function. The seeds are rich in copper, sulphur and Vitamin C.
Cocoa has been shown to have numerous health benefits:
- promotion of cardio-vascular health
- decreased oxidation of LDL to prevent atherosclerosis or plaque formation
- reduction in LDL cholesterol
- elevation in HDL cholesterol
- Suppression of decay-causing bacteria and plaque formation (Water-soluble cocoa extracts)
- Anti-depressant and euphoric effects (from Tryptophan in chocolate)
- Stimulant effects (theobromine, phenylethylamine in cocoa)
- General improvement in health and well-being of elderly men (Strandberg et al., 2007)
- Montezuma drank large quantities of a cocoa beverage reputed to have aphrodisiac and health properties. The drink was reserved for the male elite, nobility/royalty and religious ceremonies.
Current research findings suggest that liquid or dry cocoa extracts can be included in foods, food supplements and pharmaceuticals due to the stated health benefits. However, the processing of raw cocoa beans can result in a degradation of the valuable phenolic components that act as antioxidants. Manufacturers are thus currently monitoring and modifying their processes to restrict this (COPAL website: http://www.copal-cpa.org/chocolate.php). (For a bibliography, please contact the author.)