Cacao (cocoa)–nature’s superfood
Cacao (cocoa) beans (or nibs) are indeed a super food. It has been used for thousands of years by indigenous tribes in central and south America for its health properties. According to a 2014 article on cacao, researchers purported that the polyphenols in cacao are both highly anti-inflammatory and extremely cardio protective. In fact, cacao is one of the richest food in polyphenols. They key is however, not to process the cacao, for once it’s processed (into cocoa), the polyphenol benefits drop dramatically.
Also found in cacao is theobromine (hence the scientific name Theobroma), one of two methylxanthines (the other is caffeine more predominantly found in coffee). Methylxanthines act on adenosine receptors in the central nervous system with the effect of enhancing arousal, mood, and concentration levels, as well as having a diuretic, cardiovascular and metabolic effect. Methylxanthines can even help the bronchials relax and increase secretion of gastric acids.
The flavonals in cacao have also been shown to inhibit lipid (fat) peroxidation. In fact, in one experiment, cacao had been shown to reduce obesity-related inflammation in high fat-fed mice.
I use cacao nibs in yogurt and in smoothies—they are great with bananas, so enjoy this, low calorie, super food!
Nutrients 2014, 6, 844-880, Review: “Cocoa Polyphenols and Inflammatory Markers of Cardiovascular Disease”
Nutrients 2013, 5, 4159-4173; Review; “Health Benefits of Methylxanthines in Cacao and Chocolate”