Cocoa powder has long been one of the most revered plant products. Aside from its rich beverage use, it also has a rich history, myths, and value.
From its consideration as the sweat of the stars, divine nectar, to drinks of the gods, there are several reasons cocoa powder was considered sacred.
The significant reasons cocoa powder was considered sacred include:
- The cocoa plant is central to the culture of the Mayans.
- The cocoa seed was so valuable that it served as currency among the ancient Aztec and Mayan populations.
- Numerous productions from cocoa topped off several creations for the central Mayan god, known as the god of the heat.
- In the Mayan creation methodology, cocoa was part of human creation.
Cocoa was considered a sacred plant among the Olmec, Aztec, and Mayan populations for thousands of years. The beans of the criollo variety were so valuable that they were used as currency.
The beverage itself was usually prepared alongside other ingredients and served to royal guests at special ceremonies.
The word 'cacao' was created from the Mayan words "Ka'kau," which means the Mother Cacao Tree.
Likewise, the word "chocolate" originated from "chocol'ha,” which means the drink, and the verb "chokola'j,” "to drink chocolate together."
The Aztec name "Kakahuatl" became "cacaoatl" in Spanish, and finally "cacao," the word used today in most languages.
The cocoa plant was an integral part of ancient Aztec and Mayan life.
Aside from being one of the most valuable beverages, cocoa was also vital to their religion and economies. This plant appears in several spiritual activities, including sacrifices and burial rites. As part of their economies, cocoa seeds were used as currencies.
However, a lot of things have changed in recent times.
Beyond the myths and reverence surrounding the cocoa plant, much scientific research has exposed that it has several compounds that are highly beneficial to your health.
What Are the Benefits of Cocoa Powder?
Cocoa powder benefits include improving mood and alertness and regulating your immune health. It has lower side effects compared to caffeine.
The relevance of cocoa powder in human health is traceable to its beneficial compounds, particularly theobromine.
Theobromine helps to improve cognitive functions, enhance lung functions, and lower blood pressure. This compound also allows you to get quality sleep, improve energy, reduce inflammation, and raise your mood.
Theobromine is one of the naturally occurring compounds in cocoa plants and leaves. This subtle alkaloid is similar to caffeine, but it interacts differently, giving more health benefits.
Aside from the benefits of theobromine, other compounds (flavonoids) in the compounds also add unique health benefits to cocoa powder.
Cocoa can improve mood and alertness
Cocoa contains flavonoids that help with the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. Serotonin is a mood stabilizer that will improve calmness, boost mood, and mitigate depression.
Cocoa is one of the best beverages to turn to if you need to boost your mood and alertness.
It has lower side effects compared to caffeine
Research shows that the stimulation and inhibition mechanism of theobromine offer enjoyable benefits with lower side effects.
Although caffeine and theobromine (one of the primary compounds in cocoa) have similar effects, the latter is less stimulating. Theobromine also comes with lower side effects alongside its subtle stimulation.
Cocoa aids body immune functionality
Research established the role cocoa can play in preventing the antibody response and inducing lower immunoglobulin (Ig) concentrations. Consequently, it aids the overall immune functionality of the body.
The body's immune system helps it to fight against potential invasion that can alter the body system. A weakened immune system will make the body vulnerable to various pathogenic attacks that cause diseases and illnesses.
More benefits of cocoa powder
Aside from improving mood and enhancing immunity, other benefits of cocoa powder include:
- It reduces high blood pressure by enhancing nitric oxide levels.
- Cocoa powder is rich in polyphenols that offer additional unique benefits.
- It enhances blood flow and cognitive function.
- The flavanols in cocoa powder can improve the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.
- Cocoa is an anti-inflammatory with various anti-cancer properties.
- It raises fat metabolism, which accelerates weight loss.
When using cocoa to lose weight, buy organic cocoa powder with no artificial sweeteners.
Your brain on cocoa powder
Beyond the benefits of theobromine, there are significant studies on the cocoa flavanols (other alkaloids and compounds) action on the human brain.
Research supports the neuroprotective and neurocognitive enhancement of cocoa powder. The cognitive abilities of these flavonoids result from several actions, including stimulating regeneration, protecting vulnerable brain neurons, and enhancing the functionality of neurons.
Most actions of these flavonoids are credited to interacting with pathways that work with neural survival. It also enhances the neuron responsible for memory and long-term potentiation.
Several flavonoids also interact with signaling proteins that are vital for pro-survival pathways.
This technique helps the flavonoids to counteract various neuronal injuries. This injury is the primary cause of many neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's.
Are you wondering why flavonoids play so much role in brain functions?
Flavanol has a high penetrative power that helps it cross various blood-brain barriers. This ability allows them to cross over to essential brain areas like the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, and cerebellum.
Aside from the fact that these areas are subjected to neurodegeneration, they are also necessary for learning and memory.
Cocoa powder vs. Cacao powder
It is common for many people to have issues with differentiating between cocoa powder and cacao powder. Aside from the close similarities with spelling, they are also from the same plant. They also have a similar appearance in terms of color.
The difference between cocoa and cacao powder is the processing. Cacao powder is processed from dried cocoa beans, fermented, and heated at a low temperature. On the other hand, cocoa powder is heated at a higher temperature, and the final output is sweeter than cacao powder.
The type of processing of cacao powder separates the fatty part of the bean from the rest. Consequently, it has more antioxidants. Cacao butter can act as a moisturizer, and cacao nibs can be a valuable alternative for chocolate chips.
Cocoa powder is sweeter than cocoa powder because it is treated at a higher temperature. So, cocoa powder is the best option for baking and general refreshment.
However, the high temperature causes the cocoa powder to have reduced antioxidants and nutrients.
Cocoa powder is bitter: What to do?
One of the significant challenges people face with cocoa powder is its bitter taste. Most individuals don't like bitter beverages as an instinct.
Some of the best ways to remove the bitter taste of cocoa powder include the sea salt recipe, fruit recipe, wine recipe, cheese recipe, and coffee recipe.
These recipes will not compromise the nutrient and quality of your cocoa powder. Instead, they add a unique taste and extra nutrients.
Please also remember that adding sugar is not a good idea. Too many sweeteners will eliminate most of the benefits you should get from the beverage.
Instead, there are several ways to remove the bitter taste of cocoa powder without compromising its benefits.
Sea salt recipe
The sea salt recipe is quite strong but still less bitter than cocoa powder. It also offers the least calories, and it is the easiest to make. All you need is a sprinkle of sea salt into your cocoa powder.
Using the coffee recipe is one of the best ways to cancel out the bitter taste of cocoa powder.
It also has few calories, but it is higher compared to the sea salt recipe. All you need is to spice the cocoa powder with a bit of coffee.
The fruit recipe is the most versatile of all three methods. The resulting taste is dependent on the fruit used to eradicate the taste.
The sweeter the taste of the fruit, the higher the calorie. So, adding a suitable fruit content can be tricky.
Wine recipe is one of the classiest ways to mitigate the bitterness of cocoa powder. It takes little or no time because all you need is to add a sizable amount of cocoa powder to wine.
Adding cocoa powder to cheese brings flavor and reduces bitterness. All you need to do is include cocoa powder as one of the recipes while making your cheese.
Cocoa Powder in Ceremonies
Although Aztec and Maya considered the cocoa plant sacred, the way they consumed drinking chocolate in a formal setting omitted cocoa powder.
Specialized ceremonial drinking cacao comprises more of the fat in the product, which remains bitter. This mix is something that you can create on your own if you want a fun DIY project.
Get cocoa wafers, buy cocoa powder, melt them together and create dark, healthful cacao that you can use in a similarly sacred way.
Are you ready to explore the benefits of cocoa?
Wild Cocoa powder is grown and roasted naturally without artificial sweeteners to offer the best keto-friendly and vegan cocoa.