Cocoa beans are naturally dried and fermented seeds of the cocoa tree, Theobroma cacao, which is native to Mexico, South and Central America. Cocoa solids and cocoa butter is extracted from these beans and then chocolate and other products are made. Compounds like phenylethylamine, theobromine as well as polyphenols like flavonoids present in the beans offer several health benefits. Moreover they are good sources of vitamin E and B-complex, minerals like magnesium, cooper, iron, potassium as well as oleic acid and protein.
Health benefits of Cocoa Beans
- Good for physical and mental well being: Beta-carotene, proteins and alkaloids present in cocoa are beneficial for our overall health. The alkaloid theobromine works by relaxing our muscles, soothing the nerves and dilating the blood vessels. All this boosts our energy levels and relieve us from mental and physical fatigue. Cocoa beans also bring about increase in functioning of various neurotransmitters thereby easing depression and uplifting mood. Its anti-depressant properties are enhanced by the presence of inhibitors of monoamine oxidase and the amino acid, tryptophan, from which mood elevator serotonin is derived.
- Benefits our cardiovascular system: Heart friendly polyphenols and magnesium present in cocoa beans reduce blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, risks of harmful blood clotting, strokes and heart attacks.
- Beneficial during pre menstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopause: Cocoa beans’ high magnesium content is associated with reduction in symptoms of PMS and menopause. Many women at this time crave for chocolates. Its hormonal balancing property also has a positive effect during these times.
- Helps in weight reduction: Some studies have depicted that cocoa beans have certain compounds that inhibit the enzymes that help in digestion of carbohydrates and fats thereby preventing us from gaining weight. They also serve as appetite suppressants.
- Skin benefits: Their antioxidant properties make them beneficial for preventing premature aging of skin. Cocoa beans and cocoa butter creams, lotions and facials are quite popular for moisturizing, toning, exfoliating and revitalizing the skin. Cocoa butter extracted from cocoa beans does not let you get stretch marks during pregnancy. It is also an essential ingredient of many lipsticks.
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- Good for our teeth: A research depicted that pure cocoa beans extract helps to control bacteria that cause dental cavities as well as inhibits dental plaque formation. This helps to reduce occurrence of diseases related to gums and cavities.
- For treating diseases affecting our liver, urinary bladder and kidneys the peel of cocoa beans have been found to be effective. Its high tannin content makes it beneficial in controlling intestinal infections and diarrhea as well.
- An infusion made using cocoa leaves and beans has therapeutic effects on people suffering from asthma, fatigue, appetite loss, malaria, pneumonia, cough and colic.
- The leaves of the cocoa bean plant serve as good wound disinfectant.
Caution: Overconsumption of cocoa can cause constipation as it is quite astringent. Since it also has good amounts of caffeine its consumption in high amounts by children may over stimulate them, make them anxious and increase pulse rate and sleeplessness.
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