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cocoa powder benefits and side effects

Cocoa Powder: Benefits, Uses and Risks

Since its introduction to the European society in the 16th century, the benefits of cocoa powder have long been utilised in a variety of ways, from baked goods to wonder treatments for our hair and skin.

Cocoa is undoubtedly one of the most loved and craved flavours on the planet, but outside of its offerings as a sweet treat and dessert dish, cocoa benefits our health and nutrition in ways that may surprise many.

From improving the digestive system and preventing chronic diseases, to healing wounds and promoting weight control (that's right, cocoa can even assist in your weight loss journey!), this guide will have you wondering why you ever restricted your chocolate intake.

Intrigued? We thought you might be, and that is why we have put together your one-stop guide for everything cocoa powder related. Whether you’re eager to know how consuming cocoa can benefit your health, or simply how much you can healthily consume a day, all your answers lie within this blog.

Contents:

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What is Cocoa Powder?

To many of us, cocoa powder is a key ingredient in the majority of our most-loved ‘naughty’ snacks. It’s rich flavour can be added to anything from smoothies, coffees and milkshakes, to oatmeal, cakes and delicacies - but that doesn’t answer exactly what it is.

Cocoa powder is a substance made from roasted, husked, and dried cacao beans - the fermented seeds of the cacao tree. These seeds, or more commonly known as the fruit of the cacao tree, come in the form of pods filled with a sweet pulp enfolding a cluster of approximately 20-40 cacao seeds. 

Within these seeds also comes cocoa butter, a non-dairy, naturally occurring fat which has become a popular ingredient in beauty treatments. 

From a chocolate perspective, Chocolate features two main components: cocoa solids (where the flavor comes from) and cocoa butter. Cocoa solids are where the flavor comes from, whereas cocoa butter is where the silky rich texture is created. 

In the production process of cocoa powder, the cocoa butter is mostly removed, leaving just 10-12% remaining. This process and removal of the butter makes cocoa powder mostly cocoa solids, meaning it packs a powerful chocolate flavour and the reason it is a highly popular ingredient in chocolate products.  

Side note: the Latin name for cacao beans is ‘Theobroma cacao’, which translates to “Food of the Gods” - they’re not wrong.

How is Cocoa Powder Made?

In its simplest form, cocoa powder is made by crushing cocoa beans and removing the cocoa butter (fat).

In a more thorough explanation: while we have just touched on it, cocoa powder comes from the cocoa beans/seeds that grow in pods on the cacao tree. The beans are fermented, dried, roasted and cracked; the nibs are ground to extract between 75-80% of the cocoa butter, which in turns leaves a dark brown paste called chocolate liquor. 

The chocolate liquor is then dried again, with its mass ground down into a powder, giving us unsweetened cocoa powder. Alternatively, in dtch cocoa (a highly popular cocoa option in baking), is treated with an alkali to neutralize the acidity that comes natural with cocoa powder.

After drying again, the mass is ground into powder (unsweetened cocoa). Dutch cocoa is treated with an alkali to neutralize the cocoa's natural acidity.

What is the Difference Between Cacao and Cocoa Powder?

While the use of ‘cocoa’ to ‘cacao’ in chocolate products varies from one brand to the other, it’s important not to mistake them for one another.

Cacao powder refers to the product made from beans that have not been roasted and contain a higher number of antioxidants as compared to cocoa powder. Commercially available chocolates and cocoa-products may not be rich in the original beneficial flavonols of cacao beans since they can be destroyed by over-processing. 

So if you’ve ever found yourself staring at the chocolate options in the baking aisle wondering ‘is cacao powder the same as cocoa powder?’, now you know. Within this article, we will be exploring the health benefits of cocoa powder, rather than cacao powder which itself provides a number of its own advantages.

15 Benefits of Cocoa Powder

#1 Improves Cognitive Function

Benefits of cocoa powder

A cocoa powder benefit which may come as a massive surprise is the role it has in improving our cognitive function.

Cocoa powder is high in flavanol, a type of flavonoid found specifically in cocoa. For reference, flavonoids are a diverse group of phytonutrients (plant chemicals) that can be found in almost all fruits and vegetables. Where all flavonoids have been found to host their own number of health benefits, the ones that have been associated with flavanol include: decreasing the risk of Alzheimer's, neurodegeneration and other neurological diseases. 

The flavonoids found in cocoa powder have also been suggested to have positive effects on learning and memory functions, as found by research led  by Dr. Norman K Hollenberg.

It has also been linked to healing minor cognitive impairment amongst older populations. 

In addition to the benefits that come with flavanol, cocoa powder also contains certain stimulants which can support short-term brain function - meaning a serving of chocolate could boost your brain activity and maintain healthy brain functions.

The science behind this is owing to the role cocoa powder plays in enhancing the flow of blood to the brain. Flavanols have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, and play a part in the biochemical pathways that produce neurons and molecules which are important for the function of the brain.  

Additionally, flavanols influence the production of nitric oxide, which relaxes the muscles of your blood vessels and therefore improves blood flow and blood supply to your brain.

The link between cocoa powder and blood flow can be demonstrated by the findings of a two week study, which found a 10% increase in blood flow to the brain in 34 older adults when given high-flavanol cocoa powder; 8% of the increase occurred after just one week.

These studies indicate the highly effective benefits of cocoa powder on brain health and possible positive effects on neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, though we should mention that more research is needed for this to be definitive. 

Alongside cocoa powder, Cardio and aerobic exercise is also great for boosting brain function, so consider combining the two for optimal effects.

#2 Strengthen Immune System

Health benefits of cocoa powder

We’re already off to a strong start with cocoa powder benefits benefiting our brain function, so what if we told you that our favorite cheat treat could in fact strengthen the immune system, reducing the risk of us falling ill. 

Cocoa powder is rich in a number of key minerals, including Zinc, Iron and Magnesium, each of which offer significant benefits to our overall health and immune function.

Zinc particularly is used by the body to fight off infections, as well as being a key component in building DNA and protein cells, otherwise known as the building blocks of our entire body. 

Zinc and Magnesium form two of the three compounds found in ZMA, a supplement popular amongst athletes, weightlifters and fitness enthusiasts. If you would like to gather a more in depth insight into the benefits of each of these minerals, check out our comprehensive report into the benefits of ZMA.

In addition to the plethora of beneficial minerals, cocoa powder also offers antibacterial properties, which have been linked to supporting our oral health by ridding of any bad bacteria. 

According to a study published in the US National Institute of Health , the researchers stated that cocoa powder contains immunoregulatory properties, and with this it influences the immune system, in particular the inflammatory innate response and the systemic and intestinal adaptive immune response.

In our ‘Best Immunity Boosting Foods’ article where dark chocolate concluded our list, you may remember we stated how the higher the cocoa percentage, the more beneficial the chocolate product is to our immune system - and as we know, there is no purer form of cocoa than that of cocoa powder. By disregarding the majority of cocoa butter, as well as all the additional ingredients that are added in the production of chocolate, we are left with cocoa solid, making it the most effective form of cocoa for the immune system there is.

Additionally, the cocoa powder content found in dark chocolate and the phenolic compounds inside the cocoa have been found to strengthen the defences of our immune system and up our body's resistance to certain illnesses and conditions. For instance, theobromine (an alkaloid fund in cocoa powder) has been found to be more effective in suppressing a stubborn cough than codeine. .

To date, cocoa powder has proven to be most effective in cases of mild inflammation as imposed to more serious cases, and is used moreso as a complementary anti-inflammatory therapy rather than a standalone treatment. 

For cocoa powder to benefit the immune system, however, it is important that you source a cocoa powder which is low and fat in sugar.

#3 Heals Wounds

Cocoa Powder calories

We mentioned previously that the zinc content in cocoa powder is plentiful; in fact, per 100g of cocoa powder is 72% of a person’s recommended daily intake of the mineral. But how does this benefit our body?

Well zinc is responsible for maintaining the structural integrity of the body’s dermal tissue and mucosal membranes. In addition to this, it also assists in the dividio of cells - the function responsible for creating new tissue. It is for this reason that doctors and medical experts use zinc in patients suffering from the likes of skin ulcers.

Cocoa extracts can be trusted for their therapeutic and wound-healing properties in the manufacturing of natural medicinal products.

Additionally, cocoa powder contains a hge offering of antioxidants, which can help promote and maintain normal blood pressure levels. Healthy blood pressure encourages wound healing as it ensures that the necessary oxygen, vitamins and nutrients are delivered to wounds on the body, and therefore helps to heal them.  

On the back off cocoa powder benefits for the immune system, by promoting stronger immunity, this in turn plays a role in the wound healing process as it is more likely to help reduce and fight off the risk of infection, which could otherwise occur in those with weaker immune systems. 

Integrating more supplements into your diet which have wound-healing properties is something we can all do with ease, as these vitamins can be purchased over the counter in most pharmacies and supermarkets. Check out our rundown of the best vitamins for the immune system here.

#4 Lowers Risk of Heart Disease and Improves Heart Health

Cocoa powder nutrition

If there is one thing we all know by now, it's that cocoa powder contains a great number of essential micronutrients, vitamins and natural compounds, and with that comes better heart health. 

Let’s bring it back to the aforementioned flavanols, the plant chemicals that we previously established promote improved cognitive function. Well flavanols allow cocoa powder to offer eleven more benefits to our health and nutrition and it does this through lowering our blood pressure. 

High blood pressure causes strain on your blood vessels, as well as your heart and other organs. If high blood pressure is ongoing, it can increase the risk of a number of serious conditions, such as: heart attacks, heart disease and strokes - so it is important to prevent this.

The flavanol in cocoa powder contributes to dilated blood vessels and arteries, which promotes blood flow and effectively lowers blood pressure. The evidence for this is significant too, with a meta-analysis showcasing a positive change in the systolic and diastolic blood pressure of those consuming cocoa powder - even more so than the changes of those consuming  black or green tea for seven days. 

These favorable changes are attributed to the presence of antioxidants in it that can stimulate the production of nitric oxide, which helps keep blood vessels relaxed. 

So, if you’re someone who suffers with bouts of high blood pressure, or you simply want to improve your health and keep your healthy blood pressure at bay, while we don’t recommend using cocoa powder as a direct medical treatment, we do say there is no harm in consuming it to help!

#5 Boosts Mood

Cocoa powder benefits

Ever wondered why its proven women crave chocolate during their menstrual bleed? Well cocoa has been found to balance brain neurotransmitter levels and calm changes in hormone levels, which is especially helpful during PMS when serotonin levels tend to drop.

The benefits of cocoa powder have been found to include calming changes in hormone levels, 

The benefits of cocoa powder on our mood stem from, yet again, its flavanols; but not only this, as cocoa contains the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is directly effective in raising the brain’s serotonin levels, with vast research showing that it can be used as an antidepressant in those suffering with mild-to-moderate depression. 

The mood-boosting compounds do not end there either, as cocoa powder contains Anandamide, a neurotransmitter which can actually help people feel happier. So with all these additions present, it comes as no surprise that cocoa powder benefits our mood. 

While much research has been done around the benefits of cocoa powder on mood, such as the 2006 study that found chocolate was linked to improved overall health and better psychological well-being in senior men and the 2003 report  that found a frequent intake of chocolate was associated with reduced stress and improved mood in babies within pregnant women, it is worth noting that more is needed before more definite conclusions can be drawn.

Of course, another great way to naturally boost our mood is through performing regular exercise; running in particular. To discover more mental health benefits of running, click here.

#6 Promotes Weight Loss and Control

Cocoa powder health benefits

You read that correctly, cocoa powder can even assist us in our weight loss journeys. It is important to not get this confused however, as there is a slight difference between consuming seven share bars of Dairy Milk and adding cocoa powder to measured products where the sugar and fat intake has been controlled. 

Cocoa powder consumption can help to reduce the effects of cortisol - the stress hormone which causes insulin resistance and possible weight gain. When combined with regular exercise, it has also been suggested that cocoa powder could even promote muscle-building and help the body burn fat. 

Somewhat paradoxically, there are a number of ways science has found cocoa powder to benefits weight control, to note but a few, cocoa powder could

  • Help in modulating lipid metabolism
  • May reduce the synthesis and transport of fatty acids
  • Improve thermogenesis, which is the mechanism of heat production in white adipose tissues and the liver. 

However, most popularly, it is thought that cocoa powder reduces appetite and increases feelings of fullness, both of these combined result in a person snacking less and therefore consuming fewer calories if they were to eat other snacks. This is similar to how coffee promotes satiety also; read more health benefits of black coffee here.

Since cocoa is rich in phytonutrients but low in fat and sugar, this means that the calories you recieve from cocoa powder will be packed with healthy chemicals rather than those that are damaging. 

And if you don’t want to take our word for it, because let’s face it, it does sound too good to be true, a study into weight loss using low-carbohydrate diets found that a group given 42 grams of 81% cocoa chocolate per day lost weight faster than the regular diet group.

While this is all evidence to support the role of cocoa powder in weight loss, we must stress that if you are consuming cocoa powder in food or drinks which contain high amounts of sugar and fat, it will likely have the opposite effect, and could lead to weight gain.

#7 Improves Digestive System

Health benefits cocoa powder

Surprise, surprise, the flavonoids present in cocoa powder present yet another extraordinary benefit to our health and this time it puts its focus on the digestive system. 

In short, the flavanols in cocoa powder have been found to become a prebiotic when they are digested. It has been identified that prebiotics work with probiotics to help promote and improve digestive health as they balance the bacteria in the gut and ensure that the “good” bacteria in the stomach flourishes.

You can combine cocoa powder with L-Glutamine, which also offers a number of benefits for gut health, to optimise results.

As well as helping it flourish, a number of studies have highlighted that cocoa powder consumption can even increase the levels of this so-called friendly bacteria, and as a result, this helps to improve the health of  the digestive system as a whole.

In an experiment, research from the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences found higher levels of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium ( both of which are ‘friednly bacteria that help your body perform essential functions such as digestion and fighting off harmful bacteria) in the intestines of humans who drank high-cocoa chocolate milk for a four week period.

The same group of research previously found that elements present in cocoa powder can reduce the growth of  Clostridium histolyticum, the bacteria present in the gut of those with inflammatory bowel disease. 

So, all evidence considered, the evidence around cocoa powder benefits for the gut offer promising findings. 

#8 Reduces Inflammation and Risk of Chronic Diseases

the health benefits of cocoa powder

We’ve touched on this subtly within other benefits, however we thought it deserves its own section due to the significance this has on our health. 

Without repeating what you now already know, flavanols found in cocoa powder help prevent the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease through lowering blood pressure, preventing cell damage and improving blood flow. 

Additionally, cocoa powder also contains the antioxidants, Polyphenols. These are compounds that we get through certain plant-based foods and have been found to improve blood sugar levels and cholesterol, further reducing the risk of heart disease.

The alkaloid theobromine which is present in cacao plants and tea leaves, can aid in decreasing inflammation. This reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and certain cancers. The selenium in cocoa powder may also decrease the side effects of radiation, by stimulating the blood cells and reducing radiation toxicity.

The benefits of cocoa powder on chronic diseases and its anti-inflammatory properties have undergone vast research in science for decades now, with significant findings to support its positive role. For instance, a 2011 review that explored cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease found that: 

Antioxidant effects of cocoa may directly influence insulin resistance and, in turn, reduce risk for diabetes. Cocoa consumption may stimulate changes in redox-sensitive signaling pathways involved in gene expression and the immune response. Cocoa can protect nerves from injury and inflammation, protect the skin from oxidative damage from UV radiation in topical preparations, and have beneficial effects on satiety, cognitive function, and mood.

This study is just one of hundreds which have found substancial evidence that properties present in cocoa offer anti-inflammation benefits and can assist in reducing the risk of many threatening and serious health conditions.

If you're looking to implement more cocoa powder into your lifestyle specifically for it's inflammation fighting properties, then you may also want to look into investing in anti-inflammatory supplements that you can combine safely alongside cocoa without the risk of any side effects. A great example would be cod liver oil, one of the most available fish oil supplements on the market.

#9 Boosts Energy

Cocoa powder benefits for skin

The science behind cocoa benefits for energy are really quite simple. Cocoa powder has stimulatory properties similar to that of caffeine that provide consumers with an energy boost, but where caffeine boosts more often than not are followed by a crash, cocoa powder benefits from not causing this. 

Caffeine boosts energy by blocking the effects of the adenosine, the chemical in the brain which causes us to feel tired, while simultaneously triggering the release of adrenaline, the hormone associated with increased energy.

100g of cocoa powder contains about 230 mg of caffeine. To put that into perspective, up to 400mg of caffeine has been deemed safe to consume daily in healthy adults, and seen as The European Food Safety Authority recommends 2.5g of high-flavanol cocoa powder or 10g of high-flavanol dark chocolate a day, you’re likely to never even come close to consuming the 230 mg of caffeine present in 100g of cocoa powder. 

The levels of caffeine in cocoa powder are significant enough to boost energy and fight fatigue naturally, though, cocoa powder’s energy increase is also owing to the Magnesium present. Two tablespoons of cocoa powder contain approximately 14% of the body’s daily value of Magnesium, which is relevant as magnesium has been linked with the ability to keep the body naturally energised. 

These two factors have promoted cocoa powder to be labelled one of the healthiest and most natural ways to keep the body energised.

#10 Prevents Wrinkles and Better Skin Health

Organic cocoa powder benefits

While the production of cocoa powder sees most of the cocoa butter removed from the substance, there are still traces (approximately 10-15%) remaining. Cocoa butter has long been lauded as a beauty holy grail, popularly associated with skin and hair health. 

Here is a list of ways in which cocoa butter, and therefore cocoa powder, benefits us aesthetically:

  • Moisturises - The fatty acids present in cocoa butter work to form a protective barrier when applied to the skin which holds in moisture, keeping the skin hydrated for long periods of time.  Find our recipe for a homemade cocoa powder moisturiser later in the article. 
  • Protects against UV rays - The antioxidants in cocoa butter help to intervene with the harmful effect UV rays can have on the skin, therefore preventing premature ageing.
  • Healthy-ageing properties - Cocoa  has been known to reduce and combat the skin’s oxidative stress - one of the major factors in premature ageing.

Additionally, it has been reported that cocoa powder moisturiser products have caused stretch marks and scars to fade, however, no scientific studies have proved it to be an effective treatment for this. 

We almost made it through a sectio without the mention of the flavanols there, almost. Flavanol rich cocoa has been linked with decreasing the effects of UV-induced erythema (a type of skin rash caused by injured or inflamed blood capillaries), and may even reduce skin roughness, scaling, hydration and enhancing skin elasticity.

And while the research is slim, there is science to suggest that the flavanol Epicatechincan assist in increasing the oxygen saturation of hemoglobin, stimulating the healthy flow of blood in the dermal (skin) tissues.

#11 Prevents Tooth Decay

What do toothpastes and cocoa powder have in common? Well as it stands right now, very little, but in the next few years the answer will be CBH.

CBH is a white crystalline powder compound found in cocoa powder, but research carried out in recent years has found that it is proven effective in hardening the enamel on our teeth and therefore making people less susceptible to tooth decay. So effective that it has been confirmed it will be used in toothpaste and mouthwash products on sale in the near future.

This would be the first major innovation to commercial toothpaste since the addition of fluoride to toothpaste, which while we’re on the subject, some have even suggested that CBH could in fact be even more effective than when fighting cavities - it’s not called the food of Gods for nothing!

Tooth decay occurs when the bacteria in the mouth transforms sugar into acids, which then eat away at the tooth’s surface, causing cavities. Compounds found in cocoa powder contain an antibacterial effect which has also been suggested to fight against plague, meaning chocolate is in fact much less harmful to our oral health than other sweets dentists generally warn you against. 

The study which identified the benefits of cocoa powder on oral hygeine and the health of our teeth has since been cited and quoted by scientists across the world, with many performing their own studies to only further highlight that cocoa powder could in fact be an effective natural alternative to fluoride in toothpaste.

Dr Sadeghpour, the researcher behind the initial experiment has only proven the theory effective in animal models to date, however believes it will prove equally as effective in human subjects in coming years.

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Finding this nutritional read to be particualrly insightful? We suggest following it up with one of the following posts:

#12 Treats Damaged Hair

Cocoa powder nutrition health benefits

We’ve spoken about how cocoa powder benefits our skin health, but what about our hair? 

You may have already had the benefits of cocoa powder emphasised to you from your curly-haired friends, those who swear by the product to help tame their hair and renourish it. 

Cocoa butter is packed with fatty acids that carry a plethora of nutrients. The fat content means tat when applied to hair, it acts as a deep conditioning treatment; providing density and a healthy feel to the body of the hair. 

Cocoa butter has also been hailed as a colour treatment, protecting coloured hair and providing it with a depth and shine that may otherwise be lost through regular supermarket hair products.

And of course, its ability to tame and control frizz. Cocoa butter acts as a natural emollient, meaning for those with curly hair, they can reap the follow cocoa powder benefits by applying it as a treatment: 

  • Moisturises dry curly hair, preventing frizz
  • Repairs damaged hair strands and prevents further damage
  • Makes hair more manageable
  • Strengthens the hair shaft
  • Replenishes oils lost due to chemical processes

While we do encourage the use of cocoa powder for individuals with a full hair of thick, curly hair, this may be a use those with thin hair might want to skip on. Cocoa butter is a very thick product and while it is effective, applying it to weak and thin hair is likely to be too heavy to provide any benefits, 

#13 Balances Cholesterol Levels and Reduces Risk of Diabetes

Cocoa powder benefits for hair

We’ve previously touched on the benefits of cocoa powder for cholesterol, but let us provide an explanation.

Regular consumption of cocoa powder can promote 'good' HDL cholesterol, while reducing 'bad' LDL cholesterol levels. If you're wondering what differentiates a cholesterol from being good and bad, well high-density lipoprotein (HDL) carries cholesterol to your liver, where it can be removed from your bloodstream prior to a build up in your arteries. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), on the other hand, transports cholesterol directly to your arteries, potentially resulting in atherosclerosis, a plaque buildup that can even cause heart attack and stroke.

By promoting the levels of HDL, cocoa powder effectively encourages the transportation of cholesterol to the liver and preventing the build up in the arteries, therefore reducing thr risk of heart attacks and strokes. This benefit of cocoa powder also offers significant backing from science, with a 2004 study highlighting through findings that cocoa powder can help reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels in the body, as well as giving a noteworthy rise to HDL cholesterol levels in the body.

In addition, the flavonoid that can be found in cocoa powder helps to control blood sugar levels and allows the body to use insulin better. This, in turn, decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Before we explain this one, let us point out first and foremost that just because you chose to over consume dark chocolate rather than milk does not make this somewhat healthier and could still be harmful for your blood sugar control. But with that said, cocoa powder does offer some anti-diabetic advantages. 

Test-tube studies indicate that cocoa flavanols offer a number of benefits for those at risk of developing diabetes, and even in those low risk. Such benefits include: improving insulin secretion, slowing down carbohydrate digestion and absorption in the gut, reducing inflammation and stimulate the uptake of sugar out of the blood into the muscle.

The 2011 study we referenced earlier stands as further evidence to suggest that a higher intake of flavanols, including those from cocoa, can result in a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

Nevertheless, these results combined with the more concrete positive effects on heart health indicate cocoa polyphenols may have a positive impact on both preventing and controlling diabetes, though more research is required.

#14 Relieves Asthma

We understand how all this must sound, from preventing heart disease to relieving asthma - with so many benefits you’re probably wondering why more people don’t know of the benefits of cocoa powder. We’re not sure either!

Cocoa powder contains xanthine and theophylline, both of which have been effective in opening constricted bronchial tubes and relaxing bronchial spasms - leading many people to the conclusion that cocoa powder offers anti-asthmatic properties.

We’ve already given multiple mentions to theobromine’s impact on a number of cocoa powder benefits throughout this article, but its inclusion is also suggested to carry further anti-asthmatic properties. Similarly to caffeine, theobromine can help with persistent asthma related coughing and fortunately cocoa powder contains about 1.9g of it per 100 grams.

Further, Theophylline can help your lungs dilate, decrease inflammation and also help your airways to  relax, proving valuable in curing asthma, as well as a shortness of breath.

So, next time you go to restrict yourself from your chocolate treat, consider the benefits cocoa powder has on your respiratory system, particularly if you’re an asthma sufferer.

If you find you're regularly coughing after running, you could be suffering with asthma without knowing. Luckily we have a guide where you can read all about the causes and potential treatment options for you if this does occur.

Other Health Benefits of Cocoa Powder

It may shock you to hear that the benefits of cocoa powder listed above are simply the ones we have found to have the most scientific backing and there are in fact a great deal more benefits that have been linked to cocoa powder.

Below we have picked out a few benefits that do not possess significant research at the present moment, however cocoa powder will certainly not cause any negative impacts towards:

  • May Treat Constipation: According to a study done on pediatric patients, consumption of fiber-rich cocoa products can result in faster colonic, rectal, and intestinal transit times.
  • May Aid in Copper Deficiency: It may be added to the diet to maintain normal levels of copper, as well as a remedy for treating copper deficiency in such conditions.
  • May Reduce Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Cocoa powder might have shown to exert calming effects on people suffering from chronic fatigue as it can help release neurotransmitters like serotonin, anandamide, and phenylethylamine in the brain.
  • May Prevent Magnesium Deficiency: Frequent consumption of cocoa powder could be beneficial in preventing the adverse effects caused by a diet lacking in magnesium for an extended time.

How to Make Cocoa Powder Moisturiser

As we’ve mentioned, cocoa powder carries a number of aesthetic benefits for our skin, however in order to reap the advantages, it must be mixed with additional ingredients to change the powdery and harsh texture of the cocoa powder. So before you begin rubbing raw cocoa powder directly on your pores, read our step by step home-made cocoa powder moisturiser recipe.

Ingredients

Cocoa Butter Moisturiser

½ cup of Organic Cocoa Butter

½ cup of Organic Coconut Oil

Directions

  1. Slowly heat ingredients up in a double boiler.
  2. Once the ingredients have blended together, transfer the mixture into a larger mixing bowl and place in the freezer until it is firm but still has some give - usually this occurs after 20 minutes.
  3. Using an electric whip/beater, beat the mixture for 3-5 minutes until it forms white peaks resembling a thick whipped cream.
  4. Scoop into a jar or appropriate container and cover.
  5. Place the cocoa powder butter moisturiser in the fridge for at least an hour before use.

This all natural, organic cocoa powder moisturiser will leave your skin hydrated and rejuvenated, as well as offering a beautiful but natural fragrant. There is no need to worry about any harsh chemicals that could damage your skin like in many drugstore products either, as all three ingredients are of the purest form.

Cocoa Powder Risks

As with anything good, most, if not all things have their cons.

While this article offers a significant insight into the health benefits of cocoa powder, much of which imply that this substance is entirely healthy, it is worth noting that not all cocoa products offer the same benefits; in fact, some could actually present more harm when consumed in mass quantities. For this reason it is important that you do not overconsume cocoa powder products, you can find a thorough dosage recommendation just below this section. 

Below we have highlighted the primary negative effects that have been reported as a direct result of cocoa powder consumption, as we believe it is important to be truly transparent with our readers on the good and the bad of everthing you consume.

#1 Caffeine Addiction

We explored the benefits of cocoa powder on energy which comes as a direct result of its caffeine content, however with that, it does mean that excessive intake could lead to a caffeine addiction and therefore cause the following:

  • Worsen gastroesophageal reflux disease, a digestive disorder that affects the ring of muscle between your esophagus and your stomach, commonly recgonised as intense heartburn.
  • Aggravate anxiety disorders in those who have existing history.
  • Increase urination, sleeplessness/insomnia, and irregular heartbeat.
  • When consumed in mass quatities while breastfeeding, it could result in mood irregularities and abdominal discomfort in infants.

Note: Avoid consuming cocoa powder prior to any surgeries to avoid any interference with blood sugar control. If you're conscious about your caffeine intake, you may benefit from checking out the products in our best natural energy drinks shortlist.

#2 Allergic Reactions

Like with most things, there is of course a risk that people could have allergies to certain properties of cocoa powder. Though cocoa isn't a primary allergen that concerns most, in the case that someone with an undiscovered allergy was to consume cocoa powder, the following reactions could occur as a result:

  • Skin reactions
  • Migraine headaches
  • Digestive discomforts (i.e., gas, nausea)

Fortunately, these are all mild symptoms of allergies and can be treated instantly with over-the-counter medicines and treatments from your GP.

#3 Drug Interactions

In those who are currently taking any medications, it is important to be aware of any potential side effects when mixed with caffeine based products. For instance, medications such as Dipyridamole, Phenylpropanolamine, Clozaril, Theophylline and Ergotamine have been reported to sometimes have negative effects on the body when consumed alongside caffeine.

Additionally, cocoa powder could also interact with drugs for depression, asthma and diabetes.

While we have emphasised on the benefits of cocoa powder in heart health, caffeine as an individual substance could influence the effects of certain medications prescribed prior to the diagnostic test associated with the heart. It is generally advised to avoid caffeine-rich beverages or foods, including cocoa powder, before the likes of cardiac examinations.

We always encourage consulting with your GP or medical professional before including a new type of food, especially one with so many unique compounds, into your diet.

Cocoa Powder Dosage

Unlike with substances such as salt, sugar, iron, fat and most nutrients, there is no defnitive guide on how much cocoa powder a person should or can consume on a daily basis. However, according to the European Food Safety Authority, they state that it is safe to consume approximately 200mg (or .2 grams) of cocoa flavanols per day in order to benefit from its cardiovascular and other health advantages. This equates to around 2.5 grams of cocoa powder.

However, research is still inconclusive. When choosing a cocoa product, look for something with a high flavanol content per serving.

Cocoa Powder Nutrition

It is common for cocoa powder nutritional values to vary between brands, and particularly products. This comes as a result of different products featuring additional ingredients, using different flavours, offering differing cocoa percentages, etc. There is a number of variables which can affect the nutritional makeup of cocoa powder.

For reference, we have chosen to use the values provided by USDA, who state:

A tablespoon (approx 5.4g) of unsweetened cocoa powder contains (approx): 12 calories, 3.1g of carbohydrates, 1.06g of protein, 0.74g of fat, 2g fibre, 0.095g of sugars, and 6.91mg of calcium.

Cocoa powder is a rich source of polyphenols, such as: flavonol glycosides, anthocyanins, catechins and procyanidins. In addition to this, cocoa powder contains minerals like magnesium, copper, and iron.

FAQs

What is the Best Way to Consume Cocoa Powder?

While unprocessed cocoa powder typically has the highest levels of healthy flavanols, there are many delicious ways to add it to your everyday life, here are a few of our favourites:

Dark chocolate (bars or truffles): Dark chocolate is healthier than milk or light chocolate by far. It contains less sugar, fewer preservatives and a higher flavanol content. Look for 72% cacao or above for the best results.

Chocolate nutrition bars: Many nutrition bars offer great health benefits without the added sugars and calories.

Smoothies: Add cocoa powder to your daily fruit or veggie smoothie to supplement its nutritional value.

Hot cocoa (or cacao powder): If you love to drink hot chocolate, replace your standard cocoa mix with an organic blend instead.

Face mask: Feeling adventurous? Try Andalou's skin food mask, which is made with pure dark cocoa.

Sunscreen or lip balm: Since cocoa powder is safe for your skin and protects you against UV rays, consider a DIY sunscreen or lip balm. Products with cocoa butter such as Palmer's Cocoa Butter face moisturizer and this hydrating cocoa butter cream are great options as well.

Supplement: Cocoa capsules and powders can be great supplements. But if you have any existing health concerns, consult a doctor before adding them to your daily routine.

Before You Go!

Simply finding healthful ways of adding cocoa powder to your diet can make a huge impact on your health. With all these benefits of cocoa powder in mind, we must emphasise that eating cocoa powder that has been combined with a high levels of processed sugar will negate any of the benefits that cocoa offers.

Adding as little as a tablespoon of pure cocoa powder to your favorite healthy milkshake or your breakfast oats can be the additional bit of cocoa powder that you need to truly improve your health. 

Nutrition is prevelant in maintaining long-lasting health. If it is an area of health and fitness which specifically interests you and you'd be eager to take up a career in, then our sports nutrition course is calling you.

Before you head off, be sure to download our FREE course prospectus and find out how OriGym can be the start of a successful career.

References

  1. Pérez-Cano FJ, Massot-Cladera M, Franch A, Castellote C, Castell M. The effects of cocoa on the immune system. Front Pharmacol. 2013;4:71. Published 2013 Jun 4. doi:10.3389/fphar.2013.00071
  2. Bayard V, Chamorro F, Motta J, Hollenberg NK. Does Flavanol Intake Influence Mortality from Nitric Oxide-Dependent Processes? Ischemic Heart Disease, Stroke, Diabetes Mellitus, and Cancer in Panama. Int J Med Sci 2007; 4:53-58. http://www.medsci.org/v04p0053.htm
  3. Sorond FA, Lipsitz LA, Hollenberg NK, Fisher ND. Cerebral blood flow response to flavanol-rich cocoa in healthy elderly humans. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2008;4(2):433-440.
  4. Strandberg TE, Strandberg AY, Pitkälä K, Salomaa VV, Tilvis RS, Miettinen TA. Chocolate, well-being and health among elderly men. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2008 Feb;62(2):247-53. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602707. Epub 2007 Feb 28. PMID: 17327862.
  5. Räikkönen K, Pesonen AK, Järvenpää AL, Strandberg TE. Sweet babies: chocolate consumption during pregnancy and infant temperament at six months. Early Hum Dev. 2004 Feb;76(2):139-45. doi: 10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2003.11.005. PMID: 14757265.
  6. Katz DL, Doughty K, Ali A. Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2011;15(10):2779-2811. doi:10.1089/ars.2010.3697.

Written by Annie Williams

Fitness Content Executive, OriGym

Join Annie on Facebook at the OriGym Facebook Group

Graduating from Liverpool John Moores University with a BA (Hons) in Journalism, Annie specialises in mental and physical wellbeing, with a specific interest in nutrition and mindfulness. Her long standing interest in fitness is what brought her to OriGym, and led her to become a qualified Personal Trainer and obtain specialist qualifications in Advanced Sports Nutrition. Annie’s primary professional attraction lies in following and tracking the ever-changing trends in the fitness industry. Beyond OriGym, Annie divides her time between personal writing, her passion for the countryside and mountain walking, and charitable runs.

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