Cocoa is the dried and fully fermented fatty seed from the cacao tree from which chocolate is made. The 'cocoa' powder is made by grinding the cocoa seeds, the 'fatty part' of the cocoa is known as 'cocoa butter', it is used for making chocolate. The white chocholate is primarily made of 'cocoa butter'. After removal of the 'cocoa butter' the remaining material is known as 'baking cocoa'. The 'baking cocoa' is the one sold in grossery stores, if you read the nutrition facts on the label it will show minute amount of fat (somewhere around 0.5 grams).
There are multiple studies that prove that 'cocoa' is full of antioxidents that are benefecial to the body. Actually it is one of the richest sources of antioxidents more powerful then the 'green tea' or some of the 'berries'.
wikipedia.org: All about Cocoa
These all studies fail to talk about how to consume 'cocoa' and what 'cocoa' to consume? Since most of the studies have been sponsored by the big chocolate companies, they try to sell the 'chocolate product', but is that the right way to consume cocoa?
Here are my concluding remarks on consumption of 'cocoa'.
Benefits of consuming Cocoa:
hersheys.com: Antioxident contents of Cocoa
sciencedaily.com: Cocoa, But Not Tea, May Lower Blood Pressure
sciencedaily.com: Chocolate, Wine And Tea Improve Brain Performance
sciencedaily.com: A Few Squares Of Dark Chocolate A Day May Stave Off Artery Hardening In Smokers
webmd.com: Cocoa Boosts "Good" Cholesterol
What Cocoa products to consume:
The 'unsweetened baking cocoa' on the grossery shelf is the most potent source of antioxidents available in 'cocoa'. This is devoid of calories, almost fat free and readily and cheaply available at any store. You can get the organic and conventional 'baking cocoa' powder varieties in the stores. But there is a catch it is not tasty because the bitter part of the 'cocoa' is what contains the antioxidents. Please read the next section on how to consume this. 'Dark chocolate' is also a very good source but it is full of sugar calories and fat (the fat of cocoa is not proven to increase bad cholestrol).
Avoid drinking the 'drinking cocoa', 'drinking chocolate', 'deutch process or alkali processed cocoa'. They have reduced antioxident contents because of special processing. They only contain lots of calories and do provide little health benefit.
If you want to eat a tasty treat then go for the 'dark chocolate'. There are two main ingredients in 'chocolate' that reduce the antioxidents. They are 'Milk' and 'Sugar', their are studies that show that adding milk and sugar reduce bioavailability of 'cocoa antioxidents'. For dark chocolate use the ones that have at least 70% or more cocoa content, the ones that don't have milk product are best.
Also the origin of 'Cocoa' determines how much antioxidents are present. For example 'madagascar cocoa' is higher in the antioxident contents.
The processing also make a lot of difference in antioxident contents, there is a special processes perfected by one of the spanish company that will result in 8 times more antioxidents then the traditional fermnenting and roasting methods.
sciencedaily.com: In Chocolate, More Cocoa Means Higher Antioxidant Capacity
sciencedaily.com: New Process Boosts Levels Of Heart-healthy Compounds In Cocoa Powder
ars.usda.gov: In Chocolate, More Cocoa Means Higher Antioxidant Capacity
How to consume Cocoa:
In previous section I talked about 'unsweetened baking cocoa' as the best source of antioxidents. Consumption of this is a bit difficult as it isn't soluble in the water. There are two key points here, one is that the 'good antioxidents' are fully soluble in water, while the 'theobromine' is not. I will talk about 'theobromine' in next section under side effects of 'cocoa'. The other key point is that the 'antioxidents' get activated by heat.
So you should take one tablespoonful of 'baking cocoa' and dissolve that in 'boiling water' to make a tea. Don't add any sugar or milk, then slowly sip this bitter tea. You should consume this twice a day, morning and evening for six weeks. You will see significant positive difference in your lipid profile (HDL->increase, LDL/VLDL-> Reduce and Triglyserides will reduce).
You must consume this in morning and evening, the half life for the cocoa antioxidents in the blood is a bit shorter so if you take it two times instead of all at once that will be better. Do not take more then two tablespoonful of this, until you get used to of it.
What are the possible side effects of consuming Cocoa:
The 'Cocoa powder' contain an alkaloid Theobromine. This is also generated in the body as a part of the caffine metabolism process. This compound is easily metabolized by the 'liver' and safely eleminated by 'kidneys'. Some cocoa powders contain less of this compound then others, Cocoa powder such as Hershey's cocoa contains 108 mg of (or 2.16%) theobromine per tablespoon (5g) of powder, some other 'baking cocoa' powders may contain upwards of 5% of theobromine.
The theobromine is used in medicine as a vasodilator (a blood vessel widener), a diuretic (urination aid), and heart stimulant.
However some people have sensitivity to it and may develop dry eyes or may feel 'pounding heart'. So for those people the best usage is to drink the 'baking cocoa' tea, without consuming the undissolved part in which 'Theobromine' remains concentrated. One word of caution is to keep your pets specially dogs away from chockolate products, it is toxic for them because of their limited capability to metabolize the Theobromine.
wikipedia.org: All about Theobromine
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