Chocolate is one food that is almost universally loved. It is rich, deep, and deliciously satisfying, whether it is eaten alone, as a dessert topping, or heated and drank as hot chocolate.
This food favorite starts as the fruit of a cacao tree. These cacao fruit pods are filled with about thirty to fifty seeds, which are eventually dried and fermented to transform into the cacao beans that are the basis for chocolate, cocoa powder, and cocoa butter. When you consider these beginnings (what other delicious food can claim it is the made from fruit, and from the amazing cacao tree no less?), it’s easy to understand why chocolate is such an amazing source of antioxidants. Not to mention that WebMD reports that eating cocoa may even help decrease blood pressure and cholesterol.
Cacao Tree Health Benefits
Cacao beans are rich in flavanols, antioxidants that may have benefits for cardiovascular health. These benefits are most pronounced in raw cacao beans because the flavonols degrade a little when heated, though the benefits do carry over somewhat to dark chocolate. One study of Kuna Indians found that a group that eats high amounts of cacao versus a group who typically does not eat cacao were found to have less incidence of cancer and heart disease.
Additionally, The American Chemical Society reports that has many other benefits. Cacao has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help soothe a host of problems, including helping to inhibit inflammatory secretions in the small intestine. It may also help strengthen mitochondria, important cells in the body, in people with type 2 diabetes, and prevent harmful cell change and precancerous lesions in the colon. And finally, the American Chemical Society reports that chocolate’s reputation as a comfort food may be based on science. One study found that eating an ounce and a half of cacao per day lowered stress hormones and emotional anxiety.
These incredible findings suggest that when it comes to the delicious byproducts of the cacao tree, you can have your chocolate and eat it, too!
- “Science celebrates cocoa and chocolate’s potential health benefits”, The American Chemical Society
- “About the Cacao Tree”, Cacaoweb
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