Culture, Processing, Nutrition, Health, and Warnings
A neatly packaged chocolate bar is the end result of a long and delicate process that typically starts on a small family farm in a tropical country.
Looking at a cacao tree it’s hard to imagine that the world’s favorite treat starts out here. It’s a really funny-looking tree. It has colorful, rugby ball-shaped pods which sprout from the trunk and hang on the branches. The pods are so big it looks as if they defy gravity, jutting straight out of the trunk and suspended from the tree’s thin branches.
But inside these pods is where chocolate magic begins. Each pod houses about 40 cacao beans, also called cocoa beans. The beans are covered in sticky, white, sweet tasting pulp which looks odd but actually is critical to the ultimatedevelopment of the bean’s flavor.
NUTRITIONAL FACTS ON RAW CACAO BEANS
According to Bettercancersolutions.com, cacao seeds have a variety of important minerals. With raw cacao seeds, you get magnesium, copper, iron, phosphorus, calcium and potassium. Magnesium is needed for muscle function and is particularly associated with the heart muscle. Phosphorous and calcium are needed for the healthy growth and maintenance of bone, while copper is essential for many biochemical reactions. Potassium is also essential for muscle health and is an important part of cellular function. Sulfur compounds are also found in cacao beans. This mineral is needed for healthy skin, hair and nail growth.
Polyphenols are substances that may have beneficial health effects. A study published in “Basic Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology” in December 2008 showed the cardiovascular effects of cacao-derived polyphenols. Rabbits were fed a standard diet or a diet with cacao liquor. The study found that after six months, rabbits with the cacao-enhanced diet saw decreases in blood pressure and heart rate. Cacao was not found, however, to change the lipid profile in the animals. Ingestion of raw cacao may provide polyphenols, however, cacao is not approved as a cure or treatment for hypertension or other heart conditions.
Cocoa Beans Benefits
Cocoa beans are known to have more than 300 healthful compounds. Some of these include, phenylethylamine, theobromine, and many polyphenols, like flavonoids. Cocoa beans also contain many vitamins and minerals as well as healthy doses of potassium and copper, which support cardiovascular health, and iron, which transports oxygen through the body. Calcium and magnesium is also found in cocoa beans, which are necessary in order for all the major organs to function properly.
Cacao beans, better known as cocoa beans, first appeared in the Amazon basin, and grow only in moist, warm and shady climates. Cocoa beans are primarily grown in Africa, Asia and, Central and South America. Cacao beans are produced by the plant Theobroma cacao, which translated, means “food of the Gods”. That is a good name for them, given the numerous health benefits provided by them. Listed below are the many health benefits of cocoa beans:
Health Benefits of Cocoa and Dark Chocolate
by Frances Bekele
Cocoa products can be very nutritious if not produced with large quantities of sugar and calorie-rich fillers. Chocolate is not high in cholesterol. Cocoa and its components (cocoa solids and cocoa butter) are not recognised as a source of trans fat in the diet. A 50g milk chocolate bar provides 10 percent of the UK Estimated Average Requirement of energy, 9 percent of protein, nearly 22 percent of calcium, more than 10 percent of iron and 25 percent of riboflavin, (for moderately active males 19–49 years) (COPAL website: http://www.copal-cpa.org/chocolate.php).
Chocolate is reputedly the richest source of the mineral magnesium, essential for mental health and heart function. The seeds are rich in copper, sulphur and Vitamin C.
Cocoa has been shown to have numerous health benefits: