The word “cocoa” comes from the Spanish word cacao, which is derived from the Nahuatl word cacahuatl. The cocoa also called cocoa beans, cacao beans, cacao is the dried and fully fermented seed of Theobroma cacao. The cacao tree is originated in Central America and parts of Mexico. More than 5,000 years ago, it was consumed by pre-Columbian cultures along the Yucatán, including the Mayans, and as far back as Olmeca civilization in spiritual ceremonies.
In a factory, the cocoa beans are roasted. Next, they are cracked and then deshelled by a “winnower”. The resulting pieces of beans are called nibs. They are sold in small packages at specialty stores to be used in cooking, snacking, and chocolate dishes. The cocoa seed contains a lot of fat, and is used to produce cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is then used to produce chocolate. It is also a stimulant and contains the compounds theobromine and caffeine.
Cocoa is considered to be a rich source of antioxidants such as procyanidins and flavanoids, which may impart antiaging properties. It contains a high level of flavonoids, specifically epicatechin, which may have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health. It also rich in minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, copper and manganese. Cocoa is a good source of selenium, potassium, and zinc while providing the body with carbohydrates, protein, and dietary fiber.
Consuming cocoa has shown antidepressant-like effects on certain physiological processes.
Another mood-enhancing compound found in cacao is PEA or phenethylamine, which triggers the release of endorphins and pleasurable opium-like neurochemicals.
The consumption of cocoa-based products enhances the flow of blood to the brain and they have provided evidence of the therapeutic potential for curing vascular disorders.
The cocoa exhibits higher antioxidant activity than against black tea, green tea and red wine.
It has hypoglycemic and hypocholesterolemic effects on both glucose and cholesterol levels, respectively.
The consumption of cocoa has been shown to be effective in improving insulin resistance and glucose metabolism.
Cocoa beans contain xanthine and theophylline, which aid in relaxing bronchial spasms and opening constricted bronchial tubes.
Drinking a cup of hot cacao before meals can help you shed fat.
Cocoa extracts has therapeutic and wound-healing properties.
Cocoa has beneficial effects in inhibiting the growth of cancer cells without effecting the growth of normal healthy cells.
Cocoa is a source of caffeine, excess consumption of caffeine can lead to various side effects such as increased urination, sleeplessness, and irregular heartbeat.
It can cause allergic reactions like (skin reactions, migraine headaches, digestive discomfort like gas, and nausea) to those who possess a sensitivity towards it.
It is generally advised to avoid caffeine-rich beverages or foods before cardiac examinations.
Cocoa can slow blood clotting. Consuming a lot of cocoa might increase the risk of bleeding and bruising in people with bleeding disorders.
Cocoa might trigger migraines in sensitive people.
The caffeine in cocoa increases pressure in the eye and should be used cautiously in people with glaucoma.
The caffeine in cocoa, especially when taken in large amounts, can worsen diarrhea.