Cocoa powder is made from cocoa beans, which come from the plant Theobroma cacao L. Cocoa beans are the primary ingredient in chocolate, but they can also be ground into cocoa powder. The powder provides many potential health benefits.
Cocoa powder provides tons of benefits, especially if your powder is at least 72% cocoa. Here’s a look at some of the health benefits of cocoa powder:
Improved Cognitive Health
Research suggests that adding more cocoa powder to your diet helps to improve your attention, working memory, and general cognition. It may also restore cognitive performance in people with sleep loss.
Stronger Immune System
Cocoa powder contains iron, zinc, and selenium. These minerals help your body function and give your immune system a boost.
Better Muscle and Nerve Function
Magnesium is important for regulating muscle contraction and helping with nerve function. The mineral also helps protect nerve cells and reduce the risk of neurological disorders. Cocoa powder contains magnesium, which means consuming it can help with maintaining healthy muscle and nervous system functioning.
Chocolate made with 90% cocoa contains plenty of zinc, a mineral that is useful for healing wounds.
Lower Risk of Heart Disease
Flavonols, a type of flavonoid found in dark chocolate, help to protect you from heart disease by lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow, and preventing cell damage. Cocoa powder also contains polyphenols, antioxidants that help to improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Weight Loss and Control
Since cocoa is rich in phytonutrients but low in fat and sugar, the calories you get from cocoa powder will be packed with healthy chemicals. Studies have also found that cocoa helps to regulate energy use and metabolism while also increasing feelings of fullness. In other words, although chocolate is commonly associated with weight gain, cocoa powder may actually help to reduce weight while providing important nutrients.
Cocoa powder is packed with nutrients, including minerals such as iron, zinc, selenium, and magnesium.
Nutrients per Serving
A quarter cup of unsweetened cocoa powder contains:
- Calories: 49
- Carbohydrates: 12 grams
- Fiber: 7 grams
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fat: 3 grams
Things to Watch Out For
By itself, cocoa doesn’t contain much sugar or fat. Most commercial chocolate products, however, contain added sugars and fats. Go for products that contain 60-70% cocoa or higher to get the most benefits.