It is always a delight to find foods and beverages that taste good and are good for you as well. Cacao, the source of cocoa and chocolate, ranks high on our list of favorites. The polyphenols it contains have numerous health benefits.
Starting the Day with Unsweetened Cacao:
Q. Your recent show on chocolate and its health benefits was appreciated. We start our day with granite stone ground cacao with chiles and cinnamon in coconut milk as our morning beverage. This has eased inflammation and cut sugar cravings throughout the day.
A. We appreciate your unusual recipe and notice that your hot morning beverage does not contain sugar. Your potion combining cacao with cinnamon and chile peppers mimics the way that the Mayans used to use cacao. They considered it a sacred plant.
What Are the Benefits of Cacao?
Susanna Larsson of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden has reported that both tea and cocoa help relax the blood vessels. In addition, cocoa improves sensitivity to insulin. These physiological mechanisms may help explain why cocoa consumption is associated with a reduced risk of stroke (Stroke, Jan., 2014). Dr. Larsson is not the only investigator who has found that cocoa flavonoids can reduce insulin resistance and endothelial dysfunction (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Nov. 18, 2015).
The compounds in cocoa also reduce oxidative stress in the body and keep platelets from clumping together to form clots as well as fighting inflammation (Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, June, 2013). Cacao polyphenols also encourage nitric oxide production and improve mitochondrial function (Current Treatment Options in Cardiovascular Medicine, Dec., 2015).
A small study in older adults found that a drink high in cocoa flavanols can improve blood flow in the brain (Psychopharmacology, Sep., 2015). Some scientists believe that this may mean that unsweetened cacao could help preserve cognitive function as we age (Current Pharmaceutical Design, 2016).
Is Cocoa Really Good for You?
Whenever new research appears on the health benefits of cacao (from which chocolate is made), public health experts harrumph that chocolate is too high in sugar to be healthy. No doubt that is true, but you have found a way using unsweetened cacao to bypass the sugar and enjoy the benefits. Thanks for your testimonial.
Another way to get the healthful cocoa flavanols is with a supplement specifically designed to provide them. CocoaVia makes such a supplement. The company sponsored our newsletter in the past. It is currently contributing to the COSMOS study to see whether the compounds from cacao can help prevent stroke, cancer and heart disease.