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:
Cocoa beans are considered to be nature's anti-depressant. These beans contain dopamine, phenylethylamine (PEA) and serotonin, all of which are used to promote positive mental health and moods. In addition to this, these beans also contain monoamine oxidase inhibitors and amino acid tryptophan. Monoamine oxidase (MOA) inhibitors work to keep dopamine and serotonin in the bloodstream longer, which could ease depression and promote feelings of well being. Tryptophan is important in the body's production of serotonin.
Research reveals that cocoa beans are perhaps the best source of antioxidants, containing up to ten percent antioxidant concentration levels. That is three times more antioxidants than green tea and twice the amount in red wine. Blueberries are often said to be a great source of antioxidants, however, while domestic blueberries have 32 antioxidants, and wild blueberries have 61, cocoa beans have 621!
Antioxidants have several health benefits. They protect against cell damage and reduce the risks of several kinds of cancer. Antioxidants also help regulate cholesterol levels.
Cocoa beans are also good for the cardiovascular system as they contain polyphenols, which has been proven to be quite beneficial for good heart health. Research indicates that polyphenols, as found in cocoa beans, might reduce blood pressure.
Cocoa beans contain magnesium. This is another nutrient that promotes good heart health. Magnesium increases heart strength and improves its condition. This helps to ensure that the heart will continue to effectively pump blood. Magnesium also decreases the risk of blood clots. This in turn, reduces the risks of strokes and heart attacks.
Cocoa beans also contain a substance known as: epicatechin . This is a compound so rich in health benefits that a Harvard professor thinks it should be considered a vitamin! It is suspected that the effects of epicatechin are comparable to that of anesthesia and penicillin. Epicatechin is also suspected to reduce the risks of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and strokes. Due to its bitter flavor, epicatechin is often removed from common cocoa products, therefore to reap the benefits of this compound it is necessary to purchase whole cocoa beans.
Cocoa beans reduce anxiety while simultaneously promoting alertness. A cup of cocoa can provide the same energy as a cup of coffee. However, due to the fewer stimulants in cocoa, there is no strong crash afterward, as there is with a cup of coffee.
A good number of the health benefits that are known to be contributed to cocoa beans indicate a possibility that they could be a weight loss aid. Research shows that the polyphenols in cocoa beans might improve sensitivity to insulin. Scientists are currently studying the connection between obesity and a condition known as Insulin Resistance Syndrome. Increased insulin sensitivity, from cocoa beans or dark chocolate for example, may support weight loss efforts. Further more, the natural anti-depressants found in cocoa beans might make it easier for individuals to stay on track with their diets.
Incorporating Cocoa Beans Into Your Diet
Cocoa beans, in their raw form, may be purchased at health stores. It is possible to purchase and consume them in that manner however many people find it difficult to deal with the harsh, bitter taste. Luckily there is a more pleasant tasting option, dark chocolate. There are specific characteristics that dark chocolate, selected for health, should contain. For example, healthy dark chocolate needs to have no less than 70% cacao. No milk or any other dairy products should be present in the chocolate as they inhibit the body's ability to absorb antioxidants. The chocolate should be made from cacao butter and not coconut or palm oil.