Chocolate, one of the most craved and popular foods in western culture, actually comes from the fruit of the cacao tree. Chocolate is made from the seeds of this fruit. The cacao bean is the most pharmacologically complex food source in the Amazon Jungle. This raw, unprocessed bean literally contains thousands of chemical constituents. The high polyphenol properties of cacao beans can benefit our health in four ways:
1. The raw, unprocessed cacao beans have high antioxidant capabilities. The beans are loaded with polyphenols, flavonoids and catechins. These seeds are scientifically proven to be a super fruit. When comparing the flavanol content of cacao powder, it was revealed that dark chocolate’s antioxidant capacity was higher than all of the sugar fruits except pomegranate. Antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals in our bodies.
2. Cacao beans contain cancer-fighting compounds. According to the American Cancer Research Institute, the studies in cancer prevention related to cacao are currently suggestive due to its strong antioxidant effects (as listed above). Yes, the antioxidants in dark chocolate help to reduce inflammation, repair DNA damage, and help protect your skin from UV damage. All these together reduce your risk for cancer.
3. Cacao beans lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. The flavanols found in dark chocolate stimulate the lining of the arteries to produce nitric oxide. This phenomenon helps lower blood pressure. High polyphenol content is effective in lowering triglyceride levels in hypertensive patients with diabetes as well as decreasing blood pressure and fasting blood sugar. Flavanols have other potential influences on vascular health such as improving blood flow to the brain and heart, thus making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot.
4. Cacao beans boosts cognitive, brain function. Intake of flavanol-rich cacao is associated with better cognitive test performance. It is associated with increased blood flow to cerebral gray matter. These flavanols might also be beneficial in preventing conditions such as dementia and stoke where cerebral blood flow is reduced. Dr. Josh Axe lists dark chocolate as one of his top brain foods to boost focus and memory.
Now that you know dark chocolate comes from a fruit with high antioxidant and polyphenol benefits, it’s wise to include this delicacy in your diet in limited amounts. Next week, we’ll look at the different types of chocolates. Not all chocolates are created equal and not all chocolates have the same health benefits as dark chocolate.
How many of you knew that chocolate was a fruit? What did you think it was? The picture used for this post was actually taken at the Dole Plantation in Oahu in December of 2017. One of the workers actually plucked the pod from the tree and opened it for us to eat. Yes, it is a fruit! I had to see and taste to believe it!
Here’s to your health!