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Sweet Health Benefits of Cocoa: What You Need to Know

Chocolate lovers, rejoice! You might have heard the saying, “Eat a little chocolate each day, and you’ll be doing your heart a favor.” This is thanks to the numerous benefits of cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate. While this sounds like a dream for sweet tooths, there are some important things you should know about cocoa.

Cocoa Bean vs. Cocoa Powder

  • Cocoa vs. Cacao: Cacao is the raw bean, while cocoa is the product derived from it.
  • Why the Bitter Taste?: Unsweetened cocoa contains flavonoids, compounds that give it a bitter taste and are known to improve health.
  • Do All Cocoa Products Have Benefits?: Not necessarily. The excessive processing of cocoa often destroys these beneficial flavonoids, so not all cocoa products retain their health benefits. Be intentional when shopping.

Health Benefits of Cocoa

  • Heart Health: Minimally processed cocoa can lower blood pressure by an average of 2 mmHg per cup, making it beneficial for those with hypertension and anyone concerned about heart health.
  • Reduced Risk of Death: Cocoa improves blood flow and reduces “bad” cholesterol, which can lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
  • Weight Control: Cocoa has been linked to weight management by reducing appetite and helping with weight loss when paired with a healthy lifestyle.

What About Chocolate?

  • Dark vs. Milk Chocolate: Choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate to maximize the nutritional benefits of cocoa.
  • Shopping Tips: Look for products with 70% or more cocoa. Avoid “grounded chocolates,” which are often just powdered milk chocolates with lots of sugar.

The European Food Safety Authority recommends at least 2.5g of high-flavanol cocoa powder per day—about ½ teaspoon. Moderation is key, as cocoa products are calorie-dense and can contribute to weight gain if consumed excessively.

Recommended Portion

Adding Cocoa to Your Meals

  • Warm Beverage: Make a warm cup of unsweetened cocoa, adding natural sweeteners like coconut milk, agave, or honey.
  • Smoothies: Add a teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder to fruit smoothies for extra flavor and nutrients. Cocoa pairs well with banana.
  • Yogurts & “Ice Cream”: Sprinkle cocoa on yogurt or make healthy homemade “ice cream” with frozen fruits, yogurt, and cocoa powder.

Try any of these and let us know how it tastes in the comments! 😊

Bottom Line

Cocoa offers amazing benefits for heart health. Paired with a healthy lifestyle, it can improve heart health, reduce the risk of death, and even help with weight loss!

Feature Image: Rodrigo Flores

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