Once used by ancient civilizations as offerings to their gods, cacao has a long and colorful history. Cacao beans – which are actually the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree – are native to South America and the West Indies.
The raw beans have been used in beverages and foods for more than two thousand years but it is only within the last 30 years that the true medicinal benefits of cacao are finally coming to light.
Chocolate, no matter the type, has long been considered junk food. You may be surprised to learn just how healthy 70% cacao, or higher dark chocolate and cocoa – which is cacao in its roasted, ground form – is for your total body wellness.
Cacao is a wonderful nutritional powerhouse for our bodies.
Boost Iron One Sweet Bite at a Time!
To maintain efficient production of new blood cells, your body requires iron. This nutrient is found in every cell of your body and is a key component in oxygen transportation. Depending on your age and gender, the recommended daily allowance of iron is between 8-18 grams.
A single ounce of cacao beans provides 314% of your RDA of iron. One bar of dark chocolate – made from 70-85% cacao – provides 67% of your RDA!
Sweets to Balance Your Sugar?
If we’re talking dark chocolate – yes. Results from a study conducted by the University of L’Aquila in Italy showed that subjects who consumed one bar of dark chocolate daily saw their insulin resistance drop by 50%!
The researchers believe it is the flavonoids found in the benefits of cacao that boost the body’s nitric oxide production and help balance sugar levels.
Your Heart Loves Dark Chocolate!
Consuming dark chocolate 2 – 3 times each week can cut your heart disease risk by one-third, according to a Swedish study that included more than 30,000 women over 9 years.
German scientists suggest that one square a day lowers blood pressure and reduces your risk of heart attack or stroke by almost 40%. The benefits of cacao are delicious!
Dark chocolate’s antioxidant capacity is off the charts – five times higher than the antioxidant threshold of an apple!
Happy Taste Buds and a Happy Brain!
When you experience increased stress your body produces more cortisol, a hormone that, when overstimulated, can lead to inflammation and metabolic dysfunction. A study from Switzerland found that when people with anxiety disorders ate 1.5 ounces of chocolate for two weeks, their cortisol levels dropped significantly.
Dark chocolate raises your body’s production of “happy hormones” – endorphins and serotonin specifically. You feel better emotionally and fortify your body with powerful antioxidants.
Dark chocolate also provides a “brain boost” when you really need it. Drinking cocoa boosts the brain’s blood flow for more than two hours. Oxford University researchers analyzed the long-term eating habits of people over age 70.
Researchers found that those who regularly consumed dark chocolate, wine and tea scored better overall in cognitive tests than those who did not.
Here’s an additional benefits of cacao for pregnant women: Finnish researchers reported that women who ate dark chocolate during pregnancy dealt better with the stress of motherhood and had babies who were happier and smiled more often.
The Sweet Taste of Weight Loss!
Dark chocolate has been proven to be satisfying and to reduce your cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods according to a recently published study by the University of Copenhagen.
Not only that, it takes longer for your system to digest – which means you feel full longer.
One of the primary reasons given for falling of a fitness regimen is the feeling of deprivation. One of the world’s most popular sweets is almost guaranteed to help with that!