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Benefits of Cacao consumption

Benefits of Cacao consumption

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Raw Cacao, the food of the gods

The search for the best raw cacao

Cacao is made of cacao beans, and is the main ingredient for chocolate. Cacao beans grow on a cacao tree, that is called “Theobroma Cacao” in Greek. Theobroma Cacao can be translated into “food of the gods”. Unfortunately, the ancient Greeks were not acquainted with cacao, and the Greek gods only ate ambrosia. Cacao was consumed within Europe only after the discovery of the New World. Nowadays, most cacao is produced in Africa, Indonesia and South America. Cacao is now sold almost everywhere around the world.

 Cacao’s health benefits

Cacao has an impressive list of health benefits. These health benefits only extend to cacao that has a lot of flavonoids. For chocolate such as white chocolate (that contains little to no cacao), and heavily roasted cacao, these health benefits do not apply. But what are these impressive health benefits of cacao? 

  • Cacao lowers blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels, but simultaneously increases insulin sensitivity. Increased insulin sensitivity means that glucose within the blood will be absorbed within the skeletal muscles to a greater extent, while preventing sugar to be stored as body fat. In other words, cacao keeps the body’s sugar metabolism healthy, while simultaneously preventing fat gains. Cacao’s blood pressure lowering effects are mainly caused by its blood vessel and arteries dilating (opening) effects. Cacao has a vasodilating effect, meaning that blood vessels get larger in diameter. Cacao produces this effect by increasing nitric oxide (NO) production. Increased nitric oxide production relaxes blood vessels, thereby decreasing blood pressure. Furthermore, blood vessels will also increase in elasticity. Several studies show that the systolic blood pressure can be lowered with 3.5 to 6 points with cacao!
  • Cacao’s fats increase HDL cholesterol and lower triglycerides within the blood. Triglycerides are an important biomarker in the area of heart health and metabolism. High triglycerides increase heart disease. The ratio of HDL cholesterol and triglycerides is an important predictor of heart disease. Cacao improves this ratio from both sides of the equation. The reason for this effect, is because cacao contains large amounts of fats, and low amounts of carbohydrates. Because of its high amount of fats, cacao can be an excellent choice within a Ketogenic diet!
  • The amount of antioxidants is many times greater than the antioxidants that are present in green tea or red wine. Antioxidants decrease the damage that is done by free radicals within the body. Free radicals play a major role in the aging process. Furthermore, raw cacao has a lot of flavonoids, while roasted or heated cacao has far a far lower quantity of flavonoids. Cacao should never be combined with milk products, as milk products prevent the use of flavonoids and antioxidants within the body. 10% of the weight of cacao is composed of antioxidants. Helfi sells “Upgraded Chocolate Powder” and “Upgraded Cacao Butter” which are raw, and have not been heated. For that reason, all of cacao’s antioxidants are intact, giving the highest amount of health benefits.
  • The flavonoids within cacao have a protective function in the brain. Flavonoids decrease oxidative stress within the brain. High amounts of oxidative stress is associated with the aging process. One example would be flavonoids protective effects on brain function, even during catastrophes. During a cerebral infarction or cerebral haemorrhage for example, flavonoids can decrease the gravity of these situations. Infarcts and bleedings occur less frequently when flavonoids are available to a great extent within one’s diet. Cacao even causes new blood vessels to emerge within the brain, increases the amount of brain cells, and improves the structure of existing brain cells. Cacao has many benefits in the areas of memory and learning ability in our brain. Good quality cacao even decreases mental fatigue.
  • Finally, cacao has major benefits in the area of the gut and digestion. The fibers within cacao products have a very different nature than the ones that can be found in grains like wheat. Fibers within cacao improve the functions of the good bacteria within the gut. Furthermore, cacao does not contain gluten like wheat does.

Does raw cacao have any downsides? Consuming cacao during the evening can prevent an optimal sleep pattern. One of cacao’s components is theobromine, which has a similar mechanism of action as caffeine. Although theobromine only has a quarter of the strength of caffeine, it would still be recommended to use cacao solely during the morning and the afternoon. 

Problems with regular cacao

In some sense, cacao can be compared with coffee. Cacao is often contaminated with mold and toxins. When mold and toxins are present with the product, the health benefits of cacao and coffee cannot be used to its maximal extent. Mold in food products are also called mycotoxins. Mycotoxins cause an immune reaction and are related to different sorts of cancer, decreased kidney function and changes within the human DNA. Mycotoxins are treated within our article about Upgraded Coffee. The most prevalent mycotoxins within cacao beans are Alfatoxins (multiple variants), Ochratoxinds and Cyclopiazonic acid. For an optimal mental and physical performance, it is of utmost importance to decrease the formation of these mycotoxins to a bare minimum within the production process. When mycotoxin formation is minimized, the best quality cacao can be produced. Contrary to coffee though, heating cacao is not an option, as flavonoids and antioxidant content will be lowered. Heating cacao will decrease the amounts of mold, but does not reduce the amount of toxin residues that are produced by the mold itself. Hence, the formation of mycotoxins has to be curbed from the beginning. Because the antioxidants and flavonoids are an important aspect of the health benefits of cacao, in the end the heating of cacao is not an option. Even lightly heating cacao will destroy a third of the antioxidants and flavonoids. Heating cacao to high temperatures will even destroy 90% of all antioxidants that are present within the final product. For that reason, highly heated cacao is next to useless for health benefits.

Another important production process is that all cacao has to be fermented. The fermentation process should not take too long. When the fermentation process is carried out in a bad manner, the resulting taste will not be great. A sub-optimal fermentation process will in turn increase mycotoxins again. Regular cacao has another problem, as much or regular cacao has high concentrations of lead. Shipping and processing cacao is the main cause for these high concentrations of lead. Toxic concentrations of lead can have negative consequences for the nervous system, behaviour and the brain. Lead toxicity can decrease intelligence and attention span.

Regular chocolate has been thoroughly researched and already offers many health benefits. In the area of raw cacao with minimal mycotoxins, there has not been a lot of scientific research yet. There have been many studies investigating the isolated effects of some compounds within cacao, such as flavonoids. Because the studies of the isolated compounds show great promise, and because these isolated compounds are present within raw cacao to a far greater extent than in regular cacao, the health benefits of high quality raw cacao should be even greater than those of regular cacao. Furthermore, high quality cacao will not have high concentrations of molds, lead and toxins, decreasing the possible downsides of cacao consumption.

“Upgraded Chocolate Powder” and “Upgraded Cacao Butter”

Helfi.nl only wants to sell the highest quality products that maximally improve physical and mental performance. Helfi sells “Upgraded Chocolate Powder” and Upgraded Cacao Butter”. These cacao products are produced at great altitudes. The production process at great altitudes decreases the final formation of mycotoxins. These cacao products are produced by Bullletproof. Buleltproof fully manages the entire production process, so it also manages the shipping and handling of the products. This will minimize the formation of lead within the cacao products, which plagues regular cacao products and lowers its health benefits. Furthermore, Bulletproof ensures that the cacao products will not be stored for long periods of time, while the cacao products are simultaneously stored at dry low-humidity environments. This further minimizes mycotoxin formation. Many companies that sell cacao store it for long periods of time in humid environments.
Helfi wants to prevent bad production processes and the resulting low quality cacao at all costs. The fermentation and production process of Bulletproof cacao has been fully optimized, making it the highest quality cacao that is currently on the market, combined with the lowest amount of mycotoxins. Lead has also been kept to a minimum.

Conclusion

Cacao honours the name “food of the gods”. It can be justly called a superfood. Helfi recommends you to use the highest quality raw cacao, because regular cacao has many limitations. There are many health benefits to cacao, but in order to improve mental and physical performance to the highest extent, the highest quality of cacao has to be used. This article focussed upon three important aspects of cacao production. Firstly, the fermentation process should be right. Secondly, mycotoxins and lead presence has to be limited to a bare extent within the final product. Thirdly, only raw cacao with the highest amount of flavonoids has the highest amount of health benefits. For these three reasons, Helfi recommends the use of “Upgraded Chocolate Powder” and “Upgraded Cacao Butter”. These are Bulletrpoof products that accord to all the high requirements and standards that Helfi places upon chocolate products.

Sources

[1] Cocoa reduces blood pressure and insulin resistance and improves endothelium-dependent vasodilation in hypertensives. Grassi D, Necozione S, Lippi C, Croce G, Valeri L, Pasqualetti P, Desideri G, Blumberg JB, Ferri C.

[2] Short-term administration of dark chocolate is followed by a significant increase in insulin sensitivity and a decrease in blood pressure in healthy persons. Grassi D, Lippi C, Necozione S, Desideri G, Ferri C.

[3] Effects of cocoa flavanols on risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Erdman JW Jr, Carson L, Kwik-Uribe C, Evans EM, Allen RR.

[4] Cocoa consumption dose-dependently improves flow-mediated dilation and arterial stiffness decreasing blood pressure in healthy individuals. Grassi D, Desideri G, Necozione S, di Giosia P, Barnabei R, Allegaert L, Bernaert H, Ferri C.

[5] Biological functions of nitric oxide, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_functions_of_nitric_oxide (geraadpleegd 19-11-2014)

[6] Cocoa intake, blood pressure, and cardiovascular mortality: the Zutphen Elderly Study. Buijsse B, Feskens EJ, Kok FJ, Kromhout D.

[7] Effects of fats and fatty acids on blood lipids in humans: an overview. Katan MB, Zock PL, Mensink RP.

[8] High ratio of triglycerides to HDL-cholesterol predicts extensive coronary disease. da Luz PL, Favarato D, Faria-Neto JR Jr, Lemos P, Chagas AC

[9] Cocoa has more phenolic phytochemicals and a higher antioxidant capacity than teas and red wine. Lee KW, Kim YJ, Lee HJ, Lee CY.

[10] Flavanol-rich cocoa drink lowers plasma F(2)-isoprostane concentrations in humans. Wiswedel I, Hirsch D, Kropf S, Gruening M, Pfister E, Schewe T, Sies H.

[11] Impact of alkalization on the antioxidant and flavanol content of commercial cocoa powders. Miller KB, Hurst WJ, Payne MJ, Stuart DA, Apgar J, Sweigart DS, Ou B.

[12] Plasma antioxidants from chocolate. Serafini M, Bugianesi R, Maiani G, Valtuena S, De Santis S, Crozier A.

[13] The flavanol (-)-epicatechin prevents stroke damage through the Nrf2/HO1 pathway. Shah ZA, Li RC, Ahmad AS, Kensler TW, Yamamoto M, Biswal S, Doré S.

[14] Oral administration of the flavanol (-)-epicatechin bolsters endogenous protection against focal ischemia through the Nrf2 cytoprotective pathway. Leonardo CC, Agrawal M, Singh N, Moore JR, Biswal S, Doré S.

[15] The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. Nehlig A.

[16] Consumption of cocoa flavanols results in acute improvements in mood and cognitive performance during sustained mental effort. Scholey AB, French SJ, Morris PJ, Kennedy DO, Milne AL, Haskell CF.

[17] Effects of regularly consuming dietary fibre rich soluble cocoa products on bowel habits in healthy subjects: a free-living, two-stage, randomized, crossover, single-blind intervention. Sarriá B, Martínez-López S, Fernández-Espinosa A, Gómez-Juaristi M, Goya L, Mateos R, Bravo L.

[18] Mycobiota and mycotoxin producing fungi from cocoa beans. Sánchez-Hervás M, Gil JV, Bisbal F, Ramón D, Martínez-Culebras PV.

[19] Impact of alkalization on the antioxidant and flavanol content of commercial cocoa powders.Miller KB, Hurst WJ, Payne MJ, Stuart DA, Apgar J, Sweigart DS, Ou B.

[20] The microbiology of cocoa fermentation and its role in chocolate quality. Schwan RF, Wheals AE.

[21] The effect of cocoa fermentation and weak organic acids on growth and ochratoxin A production by Aspergillus species. Copetti MV, Iamanaka BT, Mororó RC, Pereira JL, Frisvad JC, Taniwaki MH.

[22] Lead contamination in cocoa and cocoa products: isotopic evidence of global contamination. Rankin CW, Nriagu JO, Aggarwal JK, Arowolo TA, Adebayo K, Flegal AR.

[23] The neurobehavioural toxicology and teratology of lead. Winneke G, Lilienthal H, Krämer U.

[24] The persistent threat of lead: medical and sociological issues. Needleman HL.

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