You likely have already been incorporating cocoa powder into your keto-friendly sweets, drinks, and snacks that require a chocolate flavor. The nutritional content of cocoa powder and the positive effects it has on people’s health are likely a surprise to many.
Featuring antioxidants, beneficial fats, and dietary fiber, cocoa could potentially reduce hypertension, assist with weight reduction, and lift your spirits, in addition to other potential benefits.
Cocoa Powder Origin
In times of antiquity, the Mayans and Aztecs held cocoa in high regard as a “divine sustenance”. Not only did they use it as an energizer, but they also employed it as a remedy for gastrointestinal problems.
The cacao tree, otherwise known as Theobroma cacao, has its origins in Central and Southern America and produces cocoa beans. After being harvested, these beans are fermented to create cocoa.
The cocoa beans or seeds are scrubbed and cooked to bring out their robust flavor. The husks are then taken away, and what is left is what is commonly referred to as cocoa or cacao nibs, which can be consumed by itself as a low-carbohydrate snack.
Cacao butter is a commonly used derivative of the cocoa bean, functioning as a substitute-fat for butter made from grass-fed cows for those following vegan diets. Nevertheless, it is often employed in the production of chocolate and serves as a lubricant in various cosmetics.
When the cocoa butter is taken away, the result is a dense bar of compressed cocoa. This is then grounded into a very small particle size to form the product we recognize as raw cacao powder.
Cocoa Powder Nutrition
According to USDA, the macronutrient breakdown for one tablespoon of cocoa powder is:
- Protein: 1 tbsp (5.4 grams)
- Total fat: 0.7 grams
- Carbs: 3.1 grams
- Fiber: 1.8 grams
- Net carbs: 1 gram
Cocoa powder is also rich in important micronutrients including:
Initially, it may appear that consuming three grams of carbs per tablespoon is not suitable for the ketogenic diet. But you have to factor in dietary fiber.
Cacao powder only has 1 gram of carbohydrates after subtracting the sugar content, making it an ideal snack option for those on the ketogenic diet. You won’t exceed the maximum amount of carbs for the day, allowing you to remain in ketosis.
Health Benefits of Cocoa Powder
Cocoa powder adds a luxurious richness to any low-calorie meal, not to mention the abundance of valuable nutrients it provides.
1. Can Help Prevent Cancer
Cancer is the most common cause of death after heart disease on a global scale.
When molecules from your food and harmful toxins in your environment hurt your cells, they can cause dangerous changes that could possibly result in cancer.
Researchers have determined that there is a material that can assist the body in combating free radical damage, lowering the chances of oxidative stress and cancer: antioxidants.
Powerful plant components are present in deep pigmented fruits and vegetables such as raspberries, blueberries, kale, and cocoa beans. Cocoa contains a greater quantity of antioxidants than green tea, black tea, and red wine when compared on a serving size basis.
Cocoa is specifically rich in polyphenols, flavonoids, and niacin, which experts say can help:
- Protect your cells from damage and bacteria
- Stop cancer cells from growing
- Prevent existing cancer cells from spreading
- Encourage cancerous cells to die
Research has demonstrated that cocoa can impede the spread and duplication of prostate cancer cells, with no negative impact on the growth and performance of normal cells.
2. May Help Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease
Cocoa powder exhibits many health benefits, including defending against free radical destruction, inhibiting cancer, and acting as an anti-inflammatory agent, which can be advantageous for heart health.
The flavonoids present in cocoa could possibly avoid the formation of blood clots and the accumulation of these blocks from keeping blood from running through your veins and arteries, hence averting the occurrence of cardiovascular ailments.
Mixing cocoa with healthy monounsaturated fats (such as oleic acid, the same fatty acid found in olive oil) and saturated fats (for example, coconut oil) might improve cardiovascular health due to the combination of different fatty acids.
At the outset, research studies have shown that eating cocoa can help lower blood pressure, which is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular risks.
A comprehensive study involving 297 individuals that compared the effects of cocoa products against a control group revealed a decrease in systolic blood pressure by 4.5 mm Hg and a decrease in diastolic blood pressure by 2.5 mm Hg.
Recently, a review done by Cochrane that investigated randomized, controlled experiments on cocoa and its impact on blood pressure was conducted. Ultimately, it was determined that drinking cocoa had a slight but notably detectable effect on lowering blood pressure.
In addition, taking cocoa powder as a supplement appears to decrease the amount of oxidized low-density lipoprotein. It is assumed that flavonoids from cocoa can reduce the chance of LDL from being oxidized, due to randomized trials.
Finally, it looks like cocoa may protect the functioning of the endothelial cells. Research conducted both inside and outside of the laboratory indicates that consuming cocoa can have beneficial effects on both small and large blood vessels.
3. Promotes Lower Blood Pressure
Consuming cocoa and cocoa powder may reduce one’s risk of having high blood pressure.
Research has indicated that individuals who ingested large doses of cocoa or cocoa powder rich in flavanols experienced a considerable decrease in their blood pressure over a brief period. It appears that cocoa could possibly be used as a natural remedy for high blood pressure.
In another study, scientists looked into what happened when people ate dark chocolate with a lot of flavonoids in it and compared the results to what happened when they did not eat cocoa. The cocoa-eating group showed:
- Dilated blood vessels, which allows better blood flow
- A significant reduction in oxidative stress
4. Helps to Decrease Insulin Resistance
The cocoa flavanols found in dark chocolate may be able to help people with type 2 diabetes:
- Lower inflammation
- Improve blood sugar control
- Significantly improve insulin sensitivity
- Lower fasting insulin
This is due to the fact that cocoa polyphenols can assist in reducing the rate of digestion and uptake of carbohydrates and sugar. These compounds have the ability to aid in the digestion of glucose, leading to a stabilized level of sugar in the blood and increased resistance to insulin.
In a single investigation, researchers evaluated the consequences of dark and light chocolate bars on glucose and insulin action in 15 healthy individuals. The results indicated that dark chocolate had a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity, whereas white chocolate did not.
5. Can Prevent and Possibly Reverse Cognitive Decline
It is asserted by knowledgeable individuals that cocoa flavanols can help to counter or lessen a lot of the signs of mental deterioration which is associated with the aging process.
Studies have indicated that polyphenols and cocoa flavonoids can enhance cognitive abilities, promote circulation to the brain, and help protect against degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in old age.
It is likely this result is due to the fact that flavanols are able to move through the blood-brain barrier and thus produce an effect directly on the generation of neurons and the proper operation of brain cells.
Researchers have shown that having a daily intake of cocoa flavanols may be beneficial for elderly adults who experience slight cognitive decline.
These substances may be able to undo the harm caused to nerve cells due to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s illnesses.
6. Can Promote Better Moods, Less Fatigue, and Lower Depression
It’s not a surprise that consuming chocolate typically brings about a feeling of joy. Although you likely linked emotions of contentment and happiness to the sugar in chocolate, cocoa itself is capable of improving your state of mind.
Cocoa and cocoa powder nutrition has been shown to:
- Promote feelings of contentment
- Lower symptoms of depression
- Provide aphrodisiac-like effects
When you’re feeling mentally drained and physically worn out, cocoa powder may help by releasing neurotransmitters that bring about a sense of tranquility, such as serotonin.
Various findings demonstrate that cocoa polyphenols are capable of not only elevating your mood but also aiding in the reduction of mental tension and constant exhaustion.
Studies have found that mothers who consumed chocolate often while pregnant had children with a higher level of contentment and less stress.
7. Can Deliver Healthy Fiber
It is probable that you are not consuming an adequate amount of dietary fiber, particularly if you are not keeping an account of what you are consuming.
This can be a challenge, as fiber is not just important in making you feel sated but also plays a key role in aiding healthy digestion and the smooth passage of food through your bowels.
It is very common for individuals to have issues with discomfort related to digestion when beginning to follow a low-carb lifestyle. In a study where 44 healthy people consumed two servings of cocoa products per day, they reported:
- Increased daily bowel movements
- The time to have a bowel movement decreased
- The feeling of constipation disappeared
On the keto diet, it is not allowed to consume a lot of cocoa powder; however, it can be combined with other items such as chia pudding to increase the fiber content.
8. Rich Source of Polyphenols
Cocoa powder is an exceptionally high supplier of polyphenols, with a greater amount of these elements than almost any other food.
Polyphenols are an interesting area of study in nutrition. It was originally assumed that these things had a direct antioxidative power, however, subsequent evidence has disproved this.
It seems that polyphenols do have an impact on the communication pathways in the body and can increase the activity of different biological procedures. Remarkably, multiple scientific studies have demonstrated that the usage of cocoa can be very effective in improving health.
In a randomized, clinical trial, 42 participants were given 40 grams of cocoa powder per day for a period of four weeks. Subjects with more metabolites derived from cocoa polyphenols in their urine had significant boosts in their high-density lipoprotein count and significant drops in their oxidized low-density lipoprotein levels.
There is a notion that HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is beneficial in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, whereas oxidized LDL is thought to be a big contributing factor to them. An further evaluation of controlled studies suggested that cocoa powder may potentially inhibit or even minimize inflammation in blood vessels.
9. Significant Source of Dietary Magnesium
The term “essential” is used to refer to something of great importance, and this is particularly so in regards to vitamins and minerals. Of these, magnesium is especially vital for maintaining optimum health.
Cocoa powder provides an impressive amount of magnesium, with one hundred gram serving providing 125% of the recommended daily allowance. Regarding the significance of this mineral, recent studies have revealed that;
- Higher circulating levels of magnesium is adversely associated with cardiovascular disease, and further research is investigating magnesium’s role as a preventative agent.
- A systematic review demonstrated that higher serum magnesium levels are associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome.
Cardiovascular problems and metabolic issue are an all too common issue in today’s world, and consuming adequate amounts of magnesium may help to lower our danger of them.
10. Increases HDL “Good Cholesterol” Levels
HDL, referred to as “good cholesterol,” has been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease when it is found in larger amounts.
Cocoa powder appears to be a handy and simple way to raise HDL levels. Many studies demonstrate that regularly consuming cocoa can lead to a reliable increase in HDL levels.
Using Cocoa Powder
Figuring out what to do with cocoa powder can be challenging initially for certain individuals; so, what are some potential applications of it? Here are three simple ways to use cocoa powder;
1. Chocolate Black Forest Milkshake
Mix together 1 cup (250 ml) of milk and 1.5 tablespoons of cocoa powder, and then stir in half a cup (75 grams) of berries. You might consider blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries as a snack, and any combination of them is a viable option.
Blend and enjoy.
2. Healthier Hot Chocolate
You can enjoy a healthy cup of hot chocolate without the added sugar and it will still taste delicious. Try combining the following ingredients;
- 1 cup (250 ml) milk
- 1 fl oz (30 ml) heavy cream
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- Vanilla extract
- Sweetener (optional)
Mix together the ingredients, then pour them into a pan. Heat the mixture up until it is boiling, then reduce the heat and let it cook slowly for a few additional minutes.
3. Cocoa-Crusted Steak
Folks often use cocoa powder in desserts and sweet dishes, yet it also pairs nicely with steak. Here are the ingredients;
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- 3/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Black pepper (to taste)
Firstly, coat the steak in olive oil and salt. Subsequently, place the left over elements in a bowl and stir them together thoroughly. Fully coat all sides of the steak with the seasoning blend after it has been blended, then cook on a grill.
Adding cocoa powder to our meals is quite i Studies have shown that cocoa polyphenols may have a positive impact on cardiovascular health.