Among the various cacao formulations available out there, natural cacao powder stands tall as a superfood.
Less processed and unadulterated compared to chocolates and others, cacao powder boasts of a higher cacao content. This translates to more nutrients, more minerals, and better health benefits.
Therefore, for conscious consumers who seek more out of cacao products than just a yummy pastime, unsweetened natural cacao powder is your perfect choice for more cacao benefits.
In this article, you’ll learn the benefits of natural cacao powder to different body systems and organs.
Natural cacao powder is pure cacao solids from which cacao butter has been removed. Cacao, the seed of the chocolate tree, has near equal proportions of solids and oils. When the dry bean is ground and pressed to remove the oil, the resulting cake is then pulverized into unsweetened cacao powder.
Unsweetened cacao powder can be used as is for hot chocolate, baking, desserts, smoothies, crafting chocolate bars, or even in beauty regimens for skin and hair treatments.
While some people may use the terms interchangeably, there are differences for those who understand what they’re referring to. Cacao powder is usually less processed and therefore slightly bitter, but having a higher cacao content and more flavanols. Cocoa powder is processed to reduce the bitter flavour. It is usually darker than cacao powder but contains fewer flavanols.
We won’t exhaust every body system. Rather, we’ll look to provide answers to common queries about cacao benefits to the body, skin, male and female health.
Thanks to its abundant bioactive compounds, cacao provides several benefits to the human body. The benefits come mostly through the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of flavanols and minerals richly found in cacao powder than any other derivative product.
Numerous studies have confirmed these health benefits from cacao products:
Drunk as hot cocoa or applied on the skin as a face mask, cacao powder can benefit your skin in several ways. You will have to consume cacao powder regularly for weeks to see the effects.
In this randomized controlled trial to review the photoprotection effect of the antioxidants found in cocoa, two groups of women consumed cocoa powder with high and low flavanol levels respectively for 12 weeks. The women in the higher flavanol group showed improved skin condition in blood flow, skin thickness, and hydration, while those in the lower group showed none.
Thanks to the antioxidant properties of its flavanols, cacao powder, used as food or in skin products, may provide effective protection against UV radiation and thereby prevent skin aging caused by sun rays.
When applied to the skin, cacao may improve skin tone and elasticity, also helping to reduce the appearance of wrinkles induced by UV radiation.
Although clinical trials are lacking to provide concrete evidence, humans have used cacao for various skin conditions like acne, wounds and psoriasis.
Like the Aztecs and ancient Mayans, the original consumers of cacao, many people today believe cacao can stimulate sexual desire or positively affect male fertility. But can cacao really rouse your joystick?
Here’s what we know from scientific studies.
Studies like this one have shown that the consumption of cacao products raises nitric oxide levels through the action of cacao’s abundant flavanols, especially epicatechin. This is because dietary flavanols help regulate the processes that maintain nitric oxide steady-state levels. As a vasodilator, nitric oxide increases blood circulation in the human body, affecting various systems.
Nitric oxide affects the male reproductive system in various ways. Most famously, nitric oxide increases blood flow to the penis, thereby causing an erection. Nitric oxide also plays a major role in sperm motility and fertilization.
Cacao indirectly improves blood flow to the penis by increasing optimal blood levels of nitric oxide.
However, if you have erectile dysfunction (ED), it is important to see a doctor for the best treatment that will handle the underlying cause of your ED. For men without ED, cacao, like other good food sources, is a great way to naturally maintain or increase your nitric oxide levels.
With its mood-boosting chemicals (especially serotonin and phenylethylamine), cacao may stimulate sensual feelings. Its use as an aphrodisiac hasn’t been controlled in scientific studies.
Besides enhancing nitric oxide levels, which benefits different systems of the body, men can also tap the different benefits of cacao products.
Does cacao boost fertility in women or balance female hormones? Is cacao even good for women’s hormones?
Many women in the West report chocolate cravings around their period. While this has been shown to be a culturally acquired craving for a comfort food, cacao does indeed contain substances that can help alleviate some of the stress that accompanies a woman’s monthly visitor.
A 2017 literature review published on PubMed found evidence that magnesium supplementation is effective in the prevention of dysmenorrhea, premenstrual syndrome, and in the prevention of some menopausal symptoms.
Researchers haven’t fully understood the mechanism of action, but it is believed that magnesium relaxes the smooth muscles of the uterus and may also exert an influence on prostaglandins which are mainly responsible for period cramps.
Endorphins are feel-good hormones in our brains. Their release induces a positive effect on the mood, helping to ease a bad mood.
However, if you’re seeking comfort in cacao for your period stress, do not pick up any chocolate or cacao product from the grocery shelf. Cacao content varies from product to product, with some having high amounts of sugar.
Unsweetened cacao powder with its rich cacao content will provide the magnesium and mood-boosting effect you need without spiking your blood sugar levels. Scoop it into a cup of hot water for instant hot cocoa.
What about women who no longer have a period? This 2020 randomized clinical trial involving 137 post-menopausal women for six months found that the additional daily contribution of 10g of 99% cacao content could have a slight impact on their perception towards their quality of life.
There isn’t yet evidence on the effects of cacao on women’s fertility. Most women consume cacao and chocolate products as an indulgence with several health benefits, even if not directly on their female hormones.
Chocolate and other cacao products offer the same health benefits of Theobroma cacao. But cacao powder, being less processed than the other products, retains a higher percentage of its flavanols and minerals. This makes it a perfect option for more health benefits. These health benefits, however, come mostly from regular use than occasional consumption.
As a versatile ingredient, cacao powder can be used in chocolate drink, desserts, baking recipes, or even on the skin as a face mask or exfoliator.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only. If you have chronic medical conditions, please consult a physician.
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