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How Healthy Is 100% Cocoa Powder?

by Christine Binnendyk

About Christine Binnendyk

Based in Portland, Ore., Christine Binnendyk has written about health topics since 2001. She is the author of the book "Ageless Pilates" and her work has appeared in "SELF" magazine and "Pilates Pro." Binnendyk holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Connecticut and certifications from YogaFit, ACE, IDEA, Oregon School of Massage and the Pilates Studio of New York.


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 Disease

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.

Expert Recommendations

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.

Photo Credits:

  • 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.