If you love chocolate like me, but don’t want all the unhealthy sugar that comes along for the ride, then you should read this article.
For centuries, cacao has been known not only for its good taste but also for its proposed health effects. In fact the Incas considered it the ‘drink of gods’, an association that gave rise to the scientific name of the cocoa tree, Theobroma cacao, from the Greek words theo (god) and broma (drink).
In order to find the co-relation between cacao and heart health, lets look at an interesting study that was conducted on the Kuna Indians, a native population living on islands off the coast of Panama.
Scientists found that the Kuna Indians were a tribe that was naturally protected against, high blood pressure that is dependent on your age i.e as you age you are more likely to get blood pressure. But Kuna Indians did not show any sign of this disease.
On researching further the scientist found that the Kunas consume enormous amounts of cocoa daily and this would have been a major factor for them being resistant to “age related blood pressure”.
This was further proved, when a small group of Kuna Indians migrated to urban Panama City, where the home-prepared cocoa was replaced by other food with a lower flavanol content. This group no longer had the natural protection against “age related blood pressure.”
The cardiovascular benefits of cacao can be attributed to its high poly-phenol and antioxidant content.
Almost 70 – 90% of it gets destroyed when cacao undergoes intensive processing in order to get the finished chocolate.
Furthermore the addition of high amounts of sugar renders it to be a guilt trip rather than the super food that the core ingredient actually was.
1. Improves Endothelial Function
The polyphenols in cacao induces the activation of nitric oxide which in turn leads to vasodilation. Reduced Nitric Oxide bio availability is associated with endothelial dysfunction and eventually cardiovascular disease.
2. Has Antioxidant Properties
Polyphenols in cacao exert strong antioxidant properties and protect against vasoconstriction and vascular damage.
3. Improves Platelet Function
The high flavanol content and stearic acid present in cacao have platelet inhibitory properties. This is significant because when platelets clump, a clot can form, and when the clot blocks a blood vessel, it can lead to a heart attack
4. Reduces Blood Pressure
Studies have shown that ingestion of cacao has anti-hypertensive effects, thus helping in reducing blood pressure levels.
5. Reduces Bad Cholesterol levels
Flavanol rich cacao lowers plasma levels of LDL and oxidized LDL (bad cholesterol, unhealthy) and increases HDL serum concentrations (good cholesterol, protective).
So, lets check out how to use and incorporate this “Heart Warrior” super food in your diet.
- Cacao nibs are nature’s chocolate chips. Have them on their own for a handy, heart-healthy snack.
- Add to your favorite trail mix or nut mix
- Use them in deserts wherever you use chocolate chips or nuts.
- Sprinkle on salad or smoothies for a healthy crunch
- Grind them up and brew them along with coffee powder for added nutrition and flavor. (This will work only for filter coffee)
Hope you found this article useful, do let me know your views in the comments section below.
About The Author
With over 6 years of experience in the organic industry, Priya is a strong believer in using healthy and easy to use alternatives in daily life. She passionately advises her friends, family and customers by sharing with them practical and easy ways to include healthy alternatives in their daily life.