It is scientifically proven: cocoa is good for normal blood flow. Flavanols found in cocoa have been associated for quite some time with blood pressure lowering properties in the scientific world. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has approved the following health claim: “200 mg cocoa flavonols/day contributes to normal blood flow.” It means, enough convincing scientific evidence (clinical trials) was piled together to substantiate this claim. For reference, 200 mg cocoa flavonols equals 2.5 g high flavonol cocoa powder or 10 g high flavonol dark chocolate. Most of the cocoa products, however, are produced using the so-called Dutch method that deprives the cocoa beans of the major part of its healthy flavonols. Consumption of unprocessed (raw) cocoa of cacao products made using the Acticoa method, which preserves up to 80 percent flavanols, are therefore preferred. The most potent flavanols in cocoa are believed to be catechin and epicatechin, which have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. Although the mechanism responsible for their suggested health benefits is not exactly clear, both catechin and epicatechin are considered to possess a range of cardiovascular-protective properties, including antioxidant and antiplatelet effects, immunoregulatory activity, vasorelaxation (a reduction in vascular tension), blood pressure lowering and the anti-inflammatory activity. In addition, recent prospective data suggest that greater average intake (7.5 compared with 1.7 g/d) of total chocolate (24 percent of intake from dark chocolate) is associated not only with lower systolic (1.0 mm Hg) and diastolic (0.9 mm Hg) blood pressure, but also with a 10 percent lower 8-y risk of stroke. In patients with a previous myocardial infarction, eating chocolate twice a week compared with never eating chocolate was also associated with a 66 percent reduction in 8-years cardiac mortality. Other potential health benefits of cocoa which are proven by multiply clinical trials are improvement of cognitive performance and improvement of insulin secretion. The Kuna paradox The Kuna Indians of the San Blas islands of Panama drink on average three 300 ml cups of cocoa beverage daily. The prevalence of hypertension (high blood pressure) among the Kuna islanders is very low (2.2 percent) and blood pressure does not increase with age. The population also experiences lower rates of diabetes mellitus, myocardial infarction, stroke, and cancer than mainland Panamanians. Among Kuna who have migrated to urban areas on mainland Panama, the occurrence of hypertension is much higher (10.7 percent) and reaches 45 percent among those over age 60. It is therefore speculated that the high intake of a traditional cocoa beverage may be to a large extend responsible for the excellent heart health of the Kuna islanders. Cacao production Cacao (words "cacao" and "cocoa" can be used interchangeably) beans are technically not beans, but rather the seeds of the fruit of the cacao tree. One cacao pod weights approximately 0.5 kg and produces 35-50 seeds surrounded by a sweet pulp. The pod and the pulp constitute the fruit of cacao. After harvest, cacao seeds and the fruit pulp are typically gathered in heaps and fermented under the influence of naturally occurring microbes that multiply using the pulp sugar as an energy source. Afterwards the seeds are dried in the sun or in special ovens and shipped to cacao processors. There the cacao seeds have their thin coats removed, and the embryonic tissue is then roasted and milled into what is referred to as chocolate liquor. Cocoa powder is produced by pressing most of the fat (cocoa butter) from the chocolate liquor and thus represents an extract of the cacao fruit’s seeds. Cacao powder is the main ingredient for the chocolate production. The polyphenol content of cocoa The polyphenol content of cocoa is largely determined by the variety and origin of the cocoa bean itself. On average, the polyphenol content of fermented, dried beans ranges between 3.5 percent to 4 percent. Even within a specific origin, polyphenol levels can fluctuate by up to 15 percent depending on factors such as climate and soil profile. While the initial polyphenol content is important, it is the process subsequently undergone by the cocoa bean which accounts for the greatest loss in polyphenols. The most of the cocoa products are made with alkalized or so called dutched, cocoa. Alkalinization is used to mellow the flavor of cocoa; however the process has been shown to destroy polyphenolic compounds. In summary, compared with unfermented beans, up to 85 percent of the polyphenols of cocoa are lost during the conventional production process, leaving, on average, as little as 0.5 percent in the final product. Patented by Barry Callebaut company, Acticoa method is a special process which preserves up to 80 percent of the natural polyphenol content of raw cocoa without the use of extracts, additives, or other chemical substances. The process leads to minimum polyphenol content in dark chocolate of two-times that of standard dark chocolate and in milk chocolate four-times that of standard milk chocolate. The richest sources for flavanols Flavonoids are a class of natural compounds, several subcategories of which are common in the human diet, including flavanols, flavonols, iso-flavones, flavones, and anthocyanidins. The richest sources for flavanols per 100 g are cocoa powder (3411mg/100 g) and dark chocolate (1590 mg/100 g). Berries are also very rich in flavanols with contents of 659, 330, and 139 mg/100 g for, respectively, black chokeberry, blueberry, and black currant. Other rich sources are strawberry (148 mg/100 g) and apple (111 mg/100 g) as well as nuts such as hazelnut, pecan nut, pistachio, and almond (181-496mg/100 g). Black tea, green tea, grapes and red wine are also important sources of flavanols. Other nutrients in dark chocolate and powder Magnesium Dark chocolate (70 – 85 percent cacao) provides 36 mg of magnesium per 100 kcal serving, which is 10 percent of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for middle-aged men — more than three times the amount provided by milk chocolate (11 mg). Copper Chocolate is a significant source of copper: dark chocolate provides 31 percent per 100-kcal serving, of the RDA of copper, and cocoa powder 23 percent per one tablespoon. Iron Per 100-kcal serving, milk chocolate contains 5 percent of the RDA for iron for adult men and postmenopausal women (0.42 mg) per 100 kcal; dark chocolate provides 25 percent of the RDA (1.90 mg) of Iron. A tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder contains 0.75 mg of Iron. Fiber One tablespoon (5 g) of unsweetened dry cocoa powder provides 2 g fiber.
Raw 5-Minute Cocoa Bonbons [Vegan]
15 - 20 bonbons
- 4 tbsp melted coconut butter
- 3-4 tbsp raw cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp lucuma powder
- 2 tsp stevia powder (or to taste)
- Optionally: a pinch of cardamon
- Melt the coconut butter over very low heat.
- Add the rest of the ingredients, stir well and fill the ice molds.
- Refrigerate until firm, approximately for two hours.