In Love With Cacao: How Cacao Can Make You Happy
Who doesn’t love chocolates? It turns out that cacao, the ingredient from which some chocolates are made, has numerous health benefits. But don’t go rejoicing just yet — experts say that the benefits are found only in the raw form of cacao, and not processed chocolate.
Among the many benefits of cacao are the following:
Antioxidant power — Raw cacao contains close to 4 times the antioxidant content of chocolate, 40 times more than blueberries, and 119 times more than bananas. Even wine and green tea, which are said to be loaded with antioxidants, fail in front of cacao. Antioxidants decrease inflammation and can combat the other dangers of free radicals, which build up due to sun exposure, smoking, pollution, and other toxins. Flavonoids, a kind of antioxidant found in cacao, promote general health, and may lower your risk of several diseases, while keeping you from premature ageing.
Aphrodisiac — Want to feel sexy tonight? Cacao is your answer! Cacao contains PEA, or phenethylamine, the only other natural source of which is blue-green algae. PEA triggers the release of endorphins and pleasurable opium-like neurochemicals. They also increase libido.
Benefits to the heart — Flavonoid antioxidants and polyphenols found in cacao promote heart health by reducing LDL (bad cholesterol), preventing atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, reducing the risk of strokes, reducing inflammation, improving blood circulation, and protecting against cardiovascular disease.
Cancer prevention — Initial research has found that the flavonoid antioxidants found in cacao may prevent pancreatic and breast cancer, or may interfere with the further development of it when the disease is already present. Other studies show that cacao may protect against the harmful UV rays of the sun that cause skin cancer. However, more research is needed for these findings to be conclusive.
Lowers blood pressure — The flavonoids and theobromine found in cacao help to lower blood pressure and improve blood circulation, by taking care of the blood vessels.
Weight loss — Cacao contains MAO inhibitors, or monoamine oxidase inhibitors, along with serotonin, which help in the reduction of appetite. It also contains 11 grams of fibre per ounce, making you feel full. Mix cacao with water, soy milk, coconut milk, or nut milk and drink 10–15 minutes before your next meal. Avoid mixing with dairy as that prevents antioxidant absorption.
Brain health — Studies show that drinking two cups of cacao a day can improve memory and increase blood flow to the brain. Cacao contains magnesium, which gets your brain to work with clarity and focus. It can also help prevent Alzheimer’s.
Sulphur power — The sulphur in cacao gives you shiny nails and hair, and takes care of your liver and pancreas.
Digestive health — The fibre in cacao improves digestion and promotes regular bowel movement. It also stimulates the body’s digestive enzymes and improves gut microbial activity.
Blood thinner — Studies have found that raw cacao can be as effective as one aspirin a day for thinning blood and prevention of blood clots.
Powerhouse of magnesium — Cacao contains a high concentration of magnesium, which helps combat fatigue, provides energy, protects against osteoporosis, and lowers blood pressure.
Diabetic help — The antioxidants found in cacao can reduce insulin sensitivity and resistance in people with impaired glucose tolerance and in smokers. It helps in bettering glucose metabolism as well.
Stress buster and mood enhancer — Studies have shown that consuming cacao regularly can reduce the stress hormone, cortisol. Anandamide, the bliss molecule, is found in cacao, which can greatly enhance your mood by increasing the circulation and availability of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain. It can also help combat PMS and depression.
Skin sin — Not only does consuming cacao help prevent sunburn, but the antioxidants in cacao improve skin texture, microcirculation, oxygen saturation, and skin hydration.
Healthy fats — Healthy fats are important for the body to promote growth, immune function, and metabolic function. Cacao is rich in monounsaturated fats, or MUFAs.
Toothy benefits — Studies show that an extract of cocoa powder is more effective than fluoride in preventing cavities. It also helps harden enamel.
Iron reserves — Cacao is the highest plant-based source of iron. Combine with vitamin C to get maximum benefits.
Apart from all these amazing benefits of cacao, the theobromine present in it helps to stimulate the central nervous system, dilate blood vessels, and also gives the body a shot of energy. It has also been found to treat cough better than codeine. Cacao is also said to improve kidney function.
Although cacao has numerous health benefits, overindulging can lead to interference with calcium retention and can have a detrimental effect on the central nervous system. It can also lead to anxiety, heartburn, sleeplessness and abnormal heart rhythms. A good measure to go by, is to not consume more than 4–6 teaspoons daily.
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