August 31, 2019

Morning, afternoon and night. Since I was little my obsession with chocolate has been one of my great guilty pleasures. That sweet and somewhat bitter taste can be highly addictive. Someone who understands me?

How delicious a chocolate in the middle of the afternoon, or ice cream dipped in chocolate for the summer. Just thinking about it starts to taste me. But what is true with those who say that this cutie has health benefits? I invite you to find out the truth in this delicious article.

CHOCOLATE OR COCOA?

Theobroma cacao is the scientific name for the cacao tree. It is also known as cacao tree. Native to the Amazon, this plant is widely found in Africa, Mexico, and the Amazon jungles of Latin America. It is the fruit of this tree that contains paradise within: seeds that, through a fermentation and drying process, become the raw material for chocolate . This product is known as “cocoa”.

Now, at least in Chile, we do not have large cocoa tree plantations. What are we really eating? As you know, there are many ways that the industry sells us the idea that by eating chocolate we will obtain the positive properties of cocoa. But it's not quite like that. Saying “chocolate” is not the same as saying “cocoa”. Make sure you always read the ingredients of what you eat. The chocolate available in supermarkets and stores contains little or no cocoa, its main ingredients are white sugar, milk, hydrogenated oils, salt, sweeteners and soy. Not so good.

milk chocolate Via Albanesecandy.com

Many times the excessive sweetness of chocolate products has nothing to do with the actual flavor of cocoa . These flavors come from other components of chocolate, especially sugar. Cocoa is actually bitter and many people can't stand it. The true promoter of health is him. How does it help us?

POLYPHENOLS VERSUS FREE RADICALS

The famous chemical substances responsible for the fact that pure cocoa is good for many things: Polyphenols. These are chemicals present in various vegetables and fruits (phytochemicals), however cocoa has no less of them, up to 18% of the dry weight of cocoa! The main 3 are:

  1. Catechins
  2. anthocyanins
  3. Proanthocyanidins

And all this tongue twisters for what? Because these substances have fundamental effects to prevent and treat diseases. It is already common for me to recommend 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder or grains (nibs) to hypertensive patients, with high cholesterol or who have had heart attacks. Many long scientific publications have proven, both in the laboratory and in clinical studies with animals and people, the powerful antioxidant effects of cocoa.

cocoa nibs benefits

Our cells communicate through different chemical molecules, some good and some not so good. The latter are called free radicals and appear with stress, poor diet, excessive medication and lack of exercise, among others . They cause our cells and tissues to miscommunicate, altering our hormones, metabolism, and genetics. This permanent inflammation produced leaves us exposed to the development of cancers and other diseases.

WHEN AND HOW TO EAT COCOA?

Continuing with the previous idea, polyphenols allow us to restore and maintain the correct communication between cells and protect our tissues from aging and mutations that could lead to cancer. It is scientifically proven that consuming cocoa allows:

  1. Decrease oxidized LDL cholesterol ("bad" fat) and increase HDL cholesterol ("good" fat).
  2. Decrease in blood pressure.
  3. Protection of the vascular endothelium and increase of nitric oxide.
  4. Regulation of homeostasis (biological balance).
  5. Decrease blood CRP, which is a marker of inflammation.

In this way, it is an especially beneficial nutritional supplement for modern times, where practically the entire population has cardiovascular and metabolic diseases (obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, insulin resistance). Did someone say skin? As a freak fact, it has been shown that polyphenols form a protective layer against solar UV rays . Natural sunscreen complementary to the typical one!

cocoa benefits Via Taste.com

How many polyphenols will I be consuming? Well, it depends on the format that you eat cocoa. Imagine, in its organic version in powder or grains (nibs) we find up to 87% of these beneficial molecules . Instead it is very poor in bitter "dark" chocolate (20%) or the typical processed sugary chocolate (15%). Why talk about the 5% polyphenols found in chocolate cow's milk.

You know! Both to prevent and to protect yourself if you are sick, adding cocoa to your smoothies, salads or desserts is another option to show love to your body.

Author: Dr. Nico Soto

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REFERENCES

SUEN, J. et al. 2016. Effect of Flavonoids on Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Adults at Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review [online]. Healthcare < http://www.mdpi.com/2227-9032/4/3/69/htm > [accessed: 11-30-2016]

KHAN, N. et al. 2014. Cocoa Polyphenols and Inflammatory Markers of Cardiovascular Disease [online]. Nutrients < http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/6/2/844/htm > [accessed: 11-30-2016]

LIPPI, D. 2013. Chocolate in History: Food, Medicine, Medi-Food [online]. Nutrients < http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/5/1573/htm > [accessed: 11-30-2016]

SARIC, S. et al. 2016. Polyphenols and Sunburn [online]. International Journal of Molecular Sciences < http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/17/9/1521/htm > [accessed: 30-11-2016]

ELLINGER, S. et al. 2016. Impact of Cocoa Consumption on Inflammation Processes—A Critical Review of Randomized Controlled Trials [online]. Nutrients < http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/8/6/321/htm > [accessed: 11-30-2016]

PETRILLI, A. et al. 2016. Effect of Chocolate and Yerba Mate Phenolic Compounds on Inflammatory and Oxidative Biomarkers in HIV/AIDS Individuals [online]. Nutrients < http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/8/5/132/htm > [accessed: 11-30-2016]

BANSODE, R. et al. 2016. Targeting MicroRNA in Cancer Using Plant-Based Proanthocyanidins [online]. Nutrients < http://www.mdpi.com/2079-9721/4/2/21/htm > [accessed: 11-30-2016]

CAMPS-BOSSACOMA, M. et al. 2016. Cocoa Diet Prevents Antibody Synthesis and Modifies Lymph Node Composition and Functionality in a Rat Oral Sensitization Model [online]. Nutrients < http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/8/4/242/htm > [accessed: 11-30-2016]

GOYA, L. et al. 2016. Effect of Cocoa and Its Flavonoids on Biomarkers of Inflammation: Studies of Cell Culture, Animals and Humans [online]. Nutrients < http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/8/4/212/htm > [accessed: 11-30-2016]

MARTIN, M. et al. 2016. Preventive Effects of Cocoa and Cocoa Antioxidants in Colon Cancer [online]. Diseases < http://www.mdpi.com/2079-9721/4/1/6/htm > [accessed: 11-30-2016]

KIM, Y. et al. 2016. Polyphenols and Glycemic Control [online]. Nutrients < http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/8/1/17/htm > [accessed: 11-30-2016]

BAHARUM, Z. et al. 2014. In Vitro Antioxidant and Antiproliferative Activities of Methanolic Plant Part Extracts of Theobroma cacao [online]. Molecules < http://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/19/11/18317/htm > [accessed: 11-30-2016]

SCAPAGNINI, G. et al. 2014. Cocoa Bioactive Compounds: Significance and Potential for the Maintenance of Skin Health [online]. Nutrients < http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/6/8/3202/htm > [accessed: 11-30-2016]


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