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Will Milk Neutralize Cocoa Benefits?

Milk proteins combine with cocoa flavonoids, but this has no practical effect on the health benefits of consuming cocoa.

Q. I have read that milk can neutralize the flavonoid compounds that make cocoa or chocolate healthful. How does that work?

Is soy milk just as problematic? I want to get the maximum benefit from my pricey cocoa powder.

A. The protein in milk can form complexes with the flavonoid compounds in cocoa or those in tea (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Aug. 10, 2011). Surprisingly, this does not seem to affect how much of the flavonoids are absorbed; one study showed no significant difference in blood levels whether 21 volunteers drank their cocoa made with milk or made with water (Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, Feb. 2008).

If you are still concerned about this, however, you could use rice milk as a substitute for cow’s milk. It is very low in protein and probably would have little or no impact on the cocoa.

Health Benefits of Cocoa

Others may be wondering what benefits you expect to get from consuming cocoa powder. Research has shown that cacao flavonoids found in good-quality cocoa can have a number of effects on health:

Lower blood pressure (Hypertension, Aug. 2005)

Reduce unwanted blood clotting (European Heart Journal, Sept. 2012)

Increase HDL cholesterol (Food & Function, Feb. 2014)

Relax blood vessels (FASEB Journal, March 2014)

Inhibit inflammation (Pharmacological Research, Jan. 2014)

Improve insulin sensitivity (Journal of Nutrition, Sept. 2008)

Boost brain function (Hypertension, Sept. 2012)

No wonder you are eager to maximize these consequences!

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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