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Cocoa Powder: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects By Dr. Smita Barode

By Dr Smita Barode +2 more

Introduction: 

Chocolates are a well-known snack for all age groups and are an indulgent confection. The major ingredient of chocolate is a cocoa powder which has several health benefits. Cocoa beans are procured from the cocoa tree (Theobroma cocoa) and since 460 AD the cocoa are used as edible food. Chocolate consumption globally ranges from 0.12 kg per person per year in China to 11.85 kg in Ireland. Developed countries consume about 64% of the total cocoa consumption and the Ivory Coast in Africa is the largest cocoa bean-producing country worldwide.1 Cocoa is a dried and fully fermented seed of cocoa fruit. The paste made from cocoa beans by grounding, roasting, shelling, and fermenting is the cocoa liquor. Cocoa powder is further made by removing the cocoa butter from cocoa liquor.1 There are several health benefits of cocoa powder and let us have a look at it. 

Nutritional Value of Cocoa Powder: 

Cocoa powder may contain bioactive compounds like polyphenols.1 The nutritional content of cocoa powder is: 

cocoa powder in a wooden spoon

Nutritional Component Value 
Energy 598 kcal 
Water 1.37 g 
Carbohydrate 45.9 g 
Protein 7.79 g 
Fat 42.6 g 
Sugar 24 g 
Fibre 10.9 g 
Iron 11.9 mg 
Magnesium 228 mg 
Potassium 715 mg 
Calcium 73 mg 
Phosphorus 308 mg 

Table 1: Nutritional Value of Cocoa Powder2 

Also Read: Gulkand: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects By Dr. Smita Barode

Properties of Cocoa Powder: 

Several studies showed that cocoa powder might have the following properties: 

  • It may be an antioxidant 
  • It may lower the blood pressure 
  • It may improve the heart health 
  • It may reduce the risk of diabetes 
  • It may boost immunity 
  • It may protect against cancer 
  • It may protect against neurodegeneration 
  • It may enhance mood1 
  • It may act as anti-inflammatory3 

Also Read: Cod Liver Oil: Benefits, Side Effects By Dr. Smita Barode

Potential Uses of Cocoa Powder for Overall Health: 

Some of the potential benefits of eating cocoa powder are described as follows: 

1. Potential use of cocoa powder for lowering blood pressure 

The association between cocoa powder and blood pressure was first observed in Zutphen Elderly Study (a major study confirmed by randomized controlled trials). Another study suggested that high-flavanol consumption like cocoa powder may reduce blood pressure. Cocoa powder may help in reducing blood pressure and more research is required to check whether cocoa powder can reduce blood pressure in humans. However, it is vital to check your blood pressure regularly and consult your doctor in case of high blood pressure.1 

2. Potential use of cocoa powder for diabetes 

Cocoa powders may be used against diabetes due to the presence of flavanols. Studies conducted on diabetic rats showed that flavanols might increase insulin secretion and may reduce blood glucose levels. Flavanols in cocoa powder may increase insulin secretion and glucose tolerance which may reduce diabetes. However, these observations were made on animals and further human trials are needed to support the activity of cocoa powder in diabetic individuals. You must check your sugar levels regularly and seek medical advice in case of high sugar levels.1 Do not self-medicate.  

3. Potential use of cocoa powder for boosting the immune system 

Cocoa powder may help to enhance the immune system, which is suggested by studies conducted on mice. Flavanols present in cocoa powder may be responsible for activating the immune system. Rumiro Puig et al. demonstrated that cocoa may defend the body from free radicals. Further studies on humans are required to confirm the effect of cocoa powder on the immune system.1 

4. Potential use of cocoa powder for cancer 

Cocoa powder may help in reducing or eliminating cancer. Antioxidant properties of cocoa powder due to polyphenols may be responsible for its anti-cancer activity. Additionally, an experimental study suggested that a constituent in a cocoa powder called proanthocyanadins may inhibit the growth of lung cancer cells in humans. However, this information is insufficient, and we require more human studies to suggest the benefits of cocoa powder on cancer. Cancer is a serious disease; therefore, get diagnosed and take proper medications instead of self-medicating.1 

5. Potential use of cocoa powder to enhance mood 

Flavanols in cocoa powder may enhance the mood by reducing mental fatigue and improving self-rated calmness. Cocoa powder may lead to the production of serotonin, a hormone that improves mood. More studies are required to check the effect of cocoa powder on mood.3  

6. Potential use of cocoa powder for Alzheimer’s disease 

Cocoa powder may be used for Alzheimer’s disease which is a neurodegenerative disorder. Polyphenols present in cocoa powder may help in the case of Alzheimer’s disease through their antioxidant activity. In vitro studies suggest that polyphenols may have a neuroprotective effect. However, more studies are required to check the effect of cocoa powder on Alzheimer’s disease. You must consult your doctor if you experience any symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.3 

7. Potential use of cocoa powder for weight management 

cocoa powder may help in weight loss and may lower the Body Mass Index (BMI). Studies on animals have shown that cocoa powder may reduce body weight. Cocoa powder may inhibit dietary fat absorption and thereby cause a reduction in the rate of body weight. More studies are required on the human body to confirm if cocoa powder can be used to reduce weight. However, you must consult a dietician before making significant changes in your daily meals.3 

8. Potential use of cocoa powder for stroke 

Cocoa powder may reduce the risk of stroke and a study was conducted on 37103 volunteers for over ten years. The results suggested that people who consume a large amount of cocoa powder may have a reduced stroke risk compared to those who did not consume cocoa powder. Antioxidant, anti-platelet, and anti-inflammatory mechanisms of cocoa powder may be responsible for lowering the risk of stroke. However, you must immediately consult your doctor if you experience any stroke symptoms.3 

Though some studies show the benefits of cocoa powder in various conditions, these are insufficient. Therefore, there is a need for further studies to establish the true extent of the benefits of cocoa powder on human health. 

In my experience, more cocoa powder in your diet may assist to enhance your attention span, working memory, and overall cognitive function. Additionally, it may improve cognitive function in those who have sleep-related problems such as insomnia.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

Also Read: Pecans: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects By Dr. Rajeev Singh

How To Use Cocoa Powder? 

Cocoa powder may be included in several foods and beverages like: 

  • It can be a part of hot chocolate 
  • It can be used as an ingredient in cakes and baked goods 
  • Cocoa powder can be eaten directly as well 

You must consult a qualified doctor before taking a cocoa powder in large quantities or any herbal supplements. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with an ayurvedic/herbal preparation without consulting a qualified doctor. 

Magnesium has a critical role in controlling muscle contraction and supporting neuronal activity. Additionally, the mineral may lower the danger of neurological illnesses while defending nerve cells. I strongly recommend consuming cocoa powder as it may help support healthy muscular and neurological system function since it includes magnesium.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Side Effects of Cocoa Powder: 

A few side effects associated with cocoa powder may be: 

  • It may cause nervousness 
  • It may increase urination 
  • It may make you sleepy  
  • It may fasten the heartbeat 
  • It may cause allergy to skin 
  • It may lead to constipation 
  • It might trigger migraine headaches 
  • It may cause nausea4 

If you experience any adverse reactions to cocoa powder, immediately contact a doctor or your Ayurvedic physician who has prescribed it. They will be able to guide you appropriately for your symptoms. 

I have studied that zinc is a mineral and is abundant in 90% cocoa chocolate. I strongly recommend consuming cocoa powder as it may help aid in wound healing.

Dr. Smita barode, B.A.M.S, M.S.

Precautions to Take with Cocoa Powder: 

You must take the following precautions while consuming cocoa powder: 

  • Cocoa powder may trigger migraine headaches. Therefore, you must be cautious before consuming it. 
  • Cocoa powder contains caffeine. Therefore, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers shall take extra precautions. 
  • A large amount of cocoa powder may make the anxiety worse. Therefore, cocoa powder should be consumed in appropriate amounts. 
  • Cocoa powder, when consumed in large amounts may cause worse diarrhoea.4 

Also Read: Arrowroot Powder: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects By Dr. Smita Barode

Interactions With Other Drugs: 

Some precautions to take before consuming cocoa powder are: 

  • Precautions shall be taken before consuming medicines like aspirin, anticoagulant drugs, anti-platelet drugs, and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).4 

Frequently Asked Questions: 

1) What are cocoa powder’s health benefits? 

Cocoa powder may be used against diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and weight management. It may lower blood pressure. It may also enhance the mood and the immune system.1,3 However, if you have the above-mentioned problems kindly, consult the doctor and do not self-medicate.  

2) What are the nutrients in cacao powder? 

Several minerals like calcium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, and many more are present. It also contains vitamins, sugars, fibres, and fats.2 

3) Is cocoa powder good for health? 

Yes, the cocoa powder may have several potential health benefits.1,3 

4) Is cocoa powder good for weight loss? 

Yes, the cocoa powder may be good for managing weight. It may help reduce weight and maintain body mass index (BMI).3 

5) What are the cocoa powder antioxidants? 

Polyphenols and flavanol’s are cocoa powder antioxidants.1 

References: 

1. Katz DL, Doughty K, Ali A. Cocoa, and chocolate in human health and disease. Antioxidants & redox signaling. 2011 Nov 15;15(10):2779-811. Available from: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/ars.2010.3697 

2. FoodData Central Chocolate, dark, 70-85% cacao solids  

[Internet]. U.S. Department of Agriculture. [cited 2022 Sep 6]. Available from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170273/nutrients 

3. Latif R. Health benefits of cocoa. Current opinion in clinical nutrition & metabolic care. 2013 Nov 1;16(6):669-74. Available from: https://journals.lww.com/co-clinicalnutrition/Abstract/2013/11000/Health_benefits_of_cocoa.11.aspx 

4. Arakelyan, Hayk. Chocolate and Drugs Dangerous Interactions.2014. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/275584061_Chocolate_and_Drugs_Dangerous_Interactions 

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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