Cocoa: natural mood enhancer

Harvest of cocoa

Cocoa has been a sought-after food for centuries, already the Majas and Aztecs have enjoyed the fine taste of cocoa. But while they brewed a bitter hot drink from cocoa beans, cocoa in Europe only became a popular luxury drink when mixed with sugar. Today, there are many uses for cocoa powder.

But whether a cup of hot chocolate, a piece of cocoa cake or a bar of chocolate: the sweet powder is good for our soul. This is due to certain active ingredients in cocoa, which have a mood-enhancing effect on us humans.

Sugar content in cocoa mixtures

When you eat cocoa-containing products, however, you should be aware that industrially manufactured cocoa mixtures are usually not healthy because they are highly fortified with sugar and therefore have many calories.

However, the high sugar content refers only to industrially produced cocoa powder, because natural cocoa contains only about one percent sugar.

Cocoa has a high fat content

The ingredients of the cocoa are the first of the high fat content of 54 percent. In addition, cocoa is composed as follows:

  • 11.5 percent protein
  • 9 percent cellulose
  • 5 percent water
  • 2.6 percent minerals

The minerals in cocoa include potassium and magnesium. In addition, cocoa also contains important fiber and vitamin E.

It is estimated that there are about 300 different ingredients in cocoa. These ingredients also include serotonin and dopamine, which can produce a mood-enhancing effect in humans and enhance their well-being . They help with depression, but can also provide first aid, for example, with lovesickness.

Cocoa is rich in calories

Cocoa has a relatively high calorie count (kcal) compared to other foods, and 100 grams of cocoa powder bring it to about 350 calories. The calorie content of commercially available cocoa powder is sometimes even higher, since the powder is usually highly fortified with sugar. These products usually contain only a few real cocoa powder, often not more than 25 percent.

With regard to the calorie content, however, there are great differences in the cocoa powder, depending on how strongly the powder was de-oiled or sweetened. So heavily de-oiled unhealthy cocoa has only about 250 calories. Incidentally, 100 grams of dark chocolate average about 500 calories.

Mix cocoa powder yourself

Who wants to know exactly what is in his hot chocolate and how many calories it has, mixes his cocoa best to his own recipe. However, the mixing ratio between natural cocoa powder and sugar is purely a matter of taste and must be tried on an individual basis. For starters, we recommend a ratio of sugar to cocoa powder of 3: 2.

For delicious variations, you can additionally refine the cocoa with spices such as cinnamon, vanilla or cayenne powder.

From the cacao bean to the chocolate

Cocoa is the most important raw material for the production of chocolate. However, the cocoa beans contained in the fruits of the cocoa tree do not yet have the typical sweet taste that we know about cocoa-containing foods. This is related to the fact that the fruits still have a relatively high content of bitter substances.

From the cocoa bean to the finished cocoa powder, there is a long way to go:

  • The harvested cocoa fruits are opened, whereupon the pulp begins to ferment.
  • The resulting alcohol stops the germination of the seeds and they lose some of their bitter substances. Overall, this process takes about ten days.
  • The cocoa beans are then dried and shipped to chocolate-producing countries.
  • Here, the beans first to cocoa mass and later to cocoa butter and cocoa powder further processed.

The cocoa butter is a fat pressed out of the cocoa mass. It is included with most cocoa powder in most chocolate varieties. Milk chocolate also contains milk or cream powder, whereas white chocolate only contains cocoa butter and sugar.

Healthy effect: Cocoa lowers blood pressure

Chocolate with a cocoa content of more than 70 percent is said to have a hypotensive effect. This is related to the fact that cocoa contains many flavanols, which have a positive effect on the elasticity of the blood vessels and thus on the blood pressure. Cocoa can also help to reduce the risk of stroke.

The cocoa substances theobromine and theophylline also have a stimulating effect on the circulation and the central nervous system. In addition, dark chocolate varieties contain a particularly large number of antioxidants that serve as radical scavengers in the body.

Despite these positive effects of cocoa, it should always be noted that the health effects of cocoa have not yet been conclusively clarified.

5 facts about cocoa (infographic)

5 facts about cocoa - © Anna Quaglia

Chocolate only in small quantities

The positive effects of cocoa on our health may encourage some chocolate consumption. But in large quantities, chocolate is not healthy, but thickens. For example, those who polish a bar of chocolate every day ruin all the positive effects chocolate has on their body. On the other hand, one or two pieces of chocolate per day are allowed. Especially recommended are varieties that have a high cocoa content .

Pollutants in cocoa?

However, for cocoa and chocolate, one should not overdo it with consumption for another reason: depending on how high the cadmium content in the soil on which the cacao trees have grown, the cocoa powder can also be cadmium-contaminated . Cadmium is a chemical element that can cause kidney and bone damage in the human body. Due to the high cocoa content in bitter chocolates, the cadmium content in these varieties may also be particularly high.

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has been calling for the introduction of a limit value in chocolate for some years, but so far this requirement has not yet been implemented.

Another reason why cocoa and chocolate should be enjoyed in moderation is the increased aluminum content . In a 2008 opinion, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has calculated the average aluminum content of untreated foods at less than 5 mg / kg. However, some foods, including cocoa and chocolate products, may also have higher concentrations.

Cocoa: For a healthy skin

Cocoa not only has an internal effect on our health and our well-being, but also our skin is happy about the brewing mass. Cocoa butter is particularly attractive for cosmetic treatments . It is used in lip balms as well as in personal care products.

Since cocoa butter already melts at body temperature and leaves a soft feeling on the skin, it is well suited for skin care. In addition, it should lead to a slowed skin aging and provide the skin with a lot of moisture. It is especially suitable for use on dry and chapped skin and therefore serves as an additive in many lotions, creams and soaps.

During pregnancy, daily rubbing of the abdomen with products containing cocoa butter should also prevent the development of the unpopular stretch marks.

Face mask with cocoa

Cocoa is also often used for face masks, with the following recipe you can easily conjure up a cocoa mask yourself: To do this, mix a teaspoon of quark, avocado oil and cocoa powder and then apply to the face. Let it work for a quarter of an hour and then rinse with lukewarm water.

The cocoa mask stimulates the blood circulation of the skin and provides extra moisture.

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