Cocoa: Natural mood enhancer

Cocoa has been a popular food for centuries, the Mayas and Aztecs already enjoyed the fine  taste  of cocoa. But while they were still brewing a bitter-spicy drink from the cocoa beans, cocoa only developed into a popular luxury drink in Europe when it was mixed with sugar. Today there are many uses for cocoa powder.

But it doesn’t matter whether it’s a cup of hot  chocolate , a piece of cocoa cake or a bar of chocolate: the sweet powder is good for our soul. This is due to certain active ingredients in cocoa that have a mood-enhancing effect on us humans.

Sugar content in cocoa mixtures 

When consuming products containing cocoa, however, you should note that industrially manufactured cocoa mixtures are usually not healthy because they are heavily  enriched with sugar  and therefore have many calories.

However, the high sugar content only refers to industrially produced cocoa powder, because natural cocoa only contains around one percent sugar.

Cocoa has a high fat content

When it comes to the  ingredients of the cocoa,  the first thing that strikes you is the high fat content of 54 percent. In addition, cocoa is composed as follows:

  • 11.5 percent  protein
  • 9 percent cellulose
  • 5 percent water
  • 2.6 percent  minerals

The minerals present in cocoa include  potassium  and  magnesium, among others . In addition, cocoa also contains important  fiber and  vitamin  E.

It is estimated that there are around 300 different ingredients in cocoa. These ingredients also include  serotonin  and  dopamine , which can produce mood-enhancing effects and  increase well-being  in humans. They help with  depression , but can also  provide first aid for heartache, for example  .

Cocoa is high in calories

Compared to other foods, cocoa has a relatively high number of calories (kcal), 100 grams of cocoa powder has around  350 calories.  The calorie content of commercially available cocoa powder is sometimes even higher because the powder is usually heavily enriched with sugar. These products usually contain only a little real cocoa powder, often no more than 25 percent.

With regard to the calorie content, however, there are major differences in cocoa powder, depending on how much the powder has been de-oiled or sugared. For example, heavily de-oiled, unsweetened cocoa has   only around 250 calories. Incidentally , 100 grams  of dark chocolate  have an average of around 500 calories.

Mix the cocoa powder yourself

If you want to know exactly what is in your hot chocolate and how many calories it has, it is best to mix your cocoa according to your own recipe. However, the mixing ratio between natural cocoa powder and sugar is purely a matter of taste and must be tried out individually. A ratio of sugar to cocoa powder of 3:2 is recommended to start with.

For delicious variations, you can also refine the cocoa with spices such as  cinnamon , vanilla or cayenne pepper powder.

From cocoa bean to chocolate

Cocoa is the most important raw material for the production of chocolate. However, the cocoa beans contained in the fruits of the cocoa tree do not yet have the typically sweet taste that we know from foods containing cocoa. This is due to the fact that the fruits still have a relatively high content of bitter substances.

It is a long way from the cocoa bean to the finished cocoa powder:

  • The harvested cocoa pods are opened, after which the pulp begins to ferment.
  • The resulting alcohol stops the seeds from germinating and they lose some of their bitterness. In total, this process takes about ten days.
  • The cocoa beans are then dried and shipped to chocolate-producing countries.
  • Here the  beans are  first processed into cocoa mass and later into cocoa butter  and cocoa powder  .

Cocoa  butter  is fat pressed from the cocoa mass.  It is found in most types of chocolate along with the  cocoa powder . Milk chocolate also contains milk or cream powder, while white chocolate only contains cocoa butter and sugar.

Healthy effect: Cocoa lowers blood pressure

Chocolate types with a cocoa content of over 70 percent are said to have an antihypertensive effect. This is due to the fact that cocoa contains many  flavanols  , which have a positive effect on the elasticity of the blood vessels and thus also on blood pressure. Cocoa can also help reduce the risk of stroke.

The substances  theobromine and theophylline contained in cocoa  also have a stimulating effect on the circulatory system and the central nervous system. Dark chocolate varieties also contain a particularly large number  of antioxidants , which act as free radical scavengers in the body.

Despite these positive effects of cocoa, it should always be noted that the health effects of cocoa have not yet been finally clarified.

Chocolate only in small quantities

The positive effects of cocoa on our health may encourage some to increase their consumption of chocolate. But in large quantities, chocolate is not healthy, it makes you fat. For example, if you eat a bar of chocolate every day, you negate all the positive effects of chocolate on your body. On the other hand, one or two pieces of chocolate per day are allowed, and types with a  high cocoa content are particularly recommended  .

Pollutants in cocoa?

When it comes to cocoa and chocolate, however, you should not overdo it for another reason: depending on the cadmium content of the soil on which the cocoa trees have grown, the cocoa powder can also be contaminated with  cadmium  . Cadmium is a chemical element that can damage kidneys and bones in the human body. Due to the high cocoa content in dark chocolate, the cadmium content can also be particularly high in these varieties.

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has been demanding the introduction of a limit value in chocolate for several years, but this requirement has not yet been implemented.

Another reason cocoa and chocolate should be consumed in moderation is the increased  aluminum content . In a statement from 2008, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) measured the average aluminum content of untreated food at less than 5 mg/kg. However, some foods, including cocoa and chocolate products, may  have higher concentrations  .

Cocoa: For healthy skin

Cocoa not only has an internal effect on our health and mental well-being, but our skin is also happy about the brown mass.  Cocoa butter is particularly attractive for  cosmetic treatments ; it is used in lip care sticks and body care products, among other things.

Since cocoa butter melts at body temperature and leaves a soft feeling on the skin, it is well suited for skin care. In addition, it should lead to slower skin aging and provide the skin with a lot of moisture. It is particularly suitable for use  with dry and chapped skin  and is therefore used as an additive in many lotions, creams and soaps.

During pregnancy, a daily rubbing of products containing cocoa butter on the abdomen should also prevent the formation of unpopular  stretch marks  .

Face mask with cocoa

Cocoa is also often used for face masks, with the following recipe you can easily conjure up a cocoa mask yourself: Mix a teaspoon of quark, avocado oil and cocoa powder together and then apply to the face. Leave on for a quarter of an hour and then rinse off with lukewarm water.

The cocoa mask stimulates blood circulation in the skin and provides extra moisture.

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