Is chocolate a superfood? Well, it is if you’re referring to the raw cacao seed which yields chocolate. It not only provides the flavor that so many of us love but also boasts a rich array of nutrients and is brimming with antioxidants.
What Is Cacao?
Cacao is an evergreen tree that grows in tropical regions worldwide and is famous for its edible seeds. The scientific name for the cacao tree is Theobroma cacao. Indigenous cultures have used it for centuries as a food source and in religious ceremonies.
The cacao tree’s pods or fleshy fruit contain brown seeds known as cacao or cocoa beans. Cacao beans are fermented and processed to make cocoa powder, chocolate, and cocoa butter.
What Are The Uses Of Cacao?
Traditionally, cacao was consumed as a raw fruit, fermenting the fruit to prepare an alcoholic drink or using the alcoholic beverage to make vinegar.
Raw cacao powder is the simplest way to incorporate cacao into your diet. Cacao powder is often the primary ingredient in smoothies, hot milk, baking items, energy balls, or sprinkled over a bowl of fresh fruit.
Cacao is rich in antioxidants, magnesium, and other vital minerals, making it a powerful superfood that can boost energy levels and improve overall health.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Cacao?
Cacao beans and their products are high in efficacious plant compounds, mainly flavonoids. These nutrients may help lower blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity, reduce your risk of diabetes, improve blood flow to the brain, and protect your heart, besides other health benefits.
Cacao contains high calcium levels, which can help strengthen bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. It also contains calcium, phosphorus, and zinc, all essential minerals for healthy bones.
In contrast to other plant-based sources of iron, the iron in cacao is easily absorbed by the body, which makes it a desirable dietary addition, especially for vegetarians and vegans because they have fewer iron-rich food options.
Furthermore, cacao products also contain tryptophan, an amino acid used by the body to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation. Cacao is also known to help improve mood, reduce anxiety and depression, increase energy levels, and enhance the overall quality of life.
What Makes Cacao An Anticancer Food?
Cacao contains compounds such as flavonoids, saponins, polyphenols, and theobromine, implying that cocoa may be effective as an anticancer proliferative agent.
Moreover, a study conducted by Kim et al. (2011) found that certain procyanidins found in cocoa reduced tumorigenesis, tumor progression, and angiogenesis.
According to another study, cocoa leaf extract was the most effective anticancer drug due to its potent antiproliferative activity against breast cancer cells.
Cocoa & chocolate products may also benefit health by reducing chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, which increase the risk of cancer and certain other chronic diseases.