The Aztecs of South America and several other native cultures have long esteemed cocoa powder for its health benefits, according to James Duke, author of “Handbook of Medicinal Spices.” Modern scientists continue to research the benefits of cocoa powder and have found it high in antioxidants, a nutritive class that can fight the progression of several age-related diseases. Discuss your health status with your doctor before making any dietary changes.
ORAC scores, which rate the oxygen radical absorption capacity of specific foods, can help you assess the overall antioxidant value of many food and beverage choices. Unprocessed cocoa powder carries a rating of 2,750 per tablespoon. Dutch-process cocoa powder undergoes processing to remove acidity and contains 1,995 ORAC units per tablespoon. Commercial cocoa mixes contain little unprocessed cocoa, with an ORAC rating of 24 per 1 tablespoon.
Cardiovascular diseases – high blood pressure, stroke, coronary artery disease and heart failure – are the leading cause of death for Americans and citizens of other developed countries. Researchers have found that diets rich in flavonols and procyanidins, both found in cocoa powder, can delay the onset of these diseases by clearing heavy metal buildup within the bloodstream and combating the free radicals that lead to cardiovascular disease.
Doctors often recommend monitoring the balance of LDL- and HDL-cholesterol levels in your blood to help assess your risk of developing atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the arteries. Studies reported in a 2010 issue of “Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology” lead scientists to believe that the antioxidants found in cocoa powder can effectively lower LDL-cholesterol while raising HDL-cholesterol, exactly the skew that many seek to achieve with pharmaceutical interventions.
Scientists study foods and antioxidants in controlled settings, yet they are unable to control every aspect of every test. Some supplement manufacturers isolate specific antioxidants to supply them in pill form. As of 2011, the American Heart Association recommends that Americans increase the consumption of nutrient-dense foods as opposed to consuming supplements as a means of increasing your antioxidant levels. The USDA recommends consuming 5,000 ORAC units per day from a wide range of food and beverage choices. Make your selections from foods with a high score, like cocoa powder.
- Handbook of Medicinal Spices; James Duke
- USDA: Database for the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (PDF)rel="nofollow"
- Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology: Cocoa, Chocolate and Cardiovascular Diseaserel="nofollow"
- American Heart Association: Vitamin and Mineral Supplementsrel="nofollow"
- USDA: Can Foods Forestall Aging?rel="nofollow"
- cup with cocoa image by Alexandra Gnatush-Kostenko from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.