Cocoa, one of nature’s many miracles, is in fact the great super-food that many people seek. Cocoa makes other so-called super-fruits pale in comparison. Cocoa is a titan of health benefits, the likes of which humanity has never known. It is the profound medicine that scientists and researchers toil to discover. If cocoa were a pharmaceutical drug, it would be hailed as the greatest medicine of all time, and its discoverer would reap the Nobel prize in Medicine. Cocoa is all of that. Cocoa is right out in the open, more protective than any other food, and more powerful than any medicine ever devised.
There is sweet irony in the fact that cocoa, once considered by some self-appointed health experts to be deleterious to health, has proven over time to be extraordinarily beneficial for health indeed. In fact, you could say that after water, cocoa is the healthiest known substance you can put into your body. If this statement seems to over-reach, consider that no other substance, of any kind, helps to prevent primary killer diseases as well as cocoa. In fact, if cocoa were consumed judiciously and regularly, it would prove the single greatest life-saving medication of all time.
But cocoa is a food, and this fact harks back to the proviso of Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine.” Not only is cocoa a food, but it is beloved around the world for its sumptuous flavor, and for the way it promotes a positive state of mind and mood. Can cocoa be the greatest medicinal food on earth? The answer is an unequivocal yes.
Over the past dozen of years or so, a steady stream of science has emerged, showing that cocoa and the confection made from it (chocolate) possess extraordinary life-imbuing and disease-fighting properties. Most notably, cocoa demonstrates significant benefits for the cardiovascular system, helping to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, reduce the risk of high blood pressure, and even reduce the risk of cancer. Furthermore, cocoa consumption is associated with reduced cognitive decline in old age.
Cocoa and Your Heart
Cocoa contains over 700 known compounds. And for all we know, there may be many more that remain undiscovered. Of particular interest to scientists are the antioxidant compounds in cocoa. Antioxidants are compounds that plants manufacture to prevent their own cells from premature destruction due to exposure to heat, light, air, moisture and time. In the human body, many of these compounds prevent reactive oxygen species (ROS) from destroying cells and causing premature aging and disease. Cocoa is especially rich in polyphenols, a group of protective antioxidant compounds found in many plant foods such as red wine and tea, and which are the subjects of scientific investigation for their beneficial influence on cardiovascular health. The polyphenols include anthocyanins, isoflavones, flavanones, flavonols, flavanols, and flavones. Of special interest to health researchers are flavanols in cocoa, including flavan-3-ols, catechins, epicatechins and proanthocyanidins. These naturally-occurring substances not only protect the cells of our bodies from premature destruction, but they also help to reduce the risk of killer diseases.
Cardiovascular disease is the primary killer of adults. The polyphenols in cocoa are cardio-protective in two ways. They help to reduce the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or so-called ‘bad cholesterol.” Oxidation of LDL is considered a major factor in the promotion of coronary disease, most notably heart attack and stroke. Additionally, polyphenols inhibit blood platelets from clumping together. This clumping process, called aggregation, leads to atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries. By inhibiting aggregation, polyphenols reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. Since atherosclerosis is a major killer of American adults, the protection provided by the polyphenols in cocoa is of real value. It can literally mean the difference between life and death.
Thanks to various studies, we have learned that tea, apples, onions, and red wine all help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, due to their content of beneficial antioxidant polyphenols. Yet of all foods known, cocoa has the highest antioxidant polyphenol content, and provides the greatest cardio-protection. In fact, no heart drug, of any kind, comes even close to imparting the heart benefits of cocoa.
According to work performed at the Department of Nutrition at University of California, Davis, cocoa not only inhibits platelet aggregation, but it thins the blood, thus slowing coagulation. In healthy subjects given a strong cocoa beverage, platelet aggregation was reduced and fewer microparticles had formed than normal. Additionally, blood from the subjects took longer to form a clot than blood from control subjects. This shows that cocoa performs the same beneficial anti-clotting activity as aspirin.
UC Davis researcher Carl Keen noted “Our work supports the concept that the chronic consumption of cocoa may be associated with an improved cardiovascular health; yet some positive effects can even be observed on an acute basis.” He adds: “Cocoa and presumably other forms of chocolate can be part of a healthy diet”.
Even small amounts of cocoa can reduce cholesterol in the blood, and can lower blood pressure. Even more, regular intake of cocoa has been shown to improve overall function of vein and arteries.