The Benefits Of Cocoa Beans
Even if you’re not a fan of chocolate itself, you’d have to agree that cocoa beans have given us one of the most widely-loved foods on the planet.
And if you are a fan of chocolate, you’re going to love this sentence: Chocolate is good for you.
It’s true! Well, it is in moderation. And it’s more the cocoa beans that are good for you. Before they are processed into chocolate, which is usually loaded up with dairy products and sugar, these little pods are nuggets of goodness.
Before you ask, no, we don’t include chocolate in Athletic Greens...quite.
What we do include is Cocoa Bean Polyphenol Extract. Read on to understand exactly what this is and why it’s so good for you.
The Background Of Cocoa Beans
You’re not the first to love cocoa beans and all the things they can lead to. In fact, cocoa beans were so revered in ancient times, they became a form of currency and ritualistic offering for the Aztecs!
So where do cocoa beans come from?
The cocoa or cacao tree is a small evergreen tree, with the botanical name of Theobroma cacao. The cacao is native to the lush equatorial rainforest of Central and South America and was likely to have been first cultivated around 1000 B.C. by the ancient Mayan or Olmec tribes.
The cocoa bean is the fatty, pulpy pod from which cocoa powder, cocoa mass and ultimately - chocolate - are derived, after various processes of fermenting and roasting.
To cocoa, or to cacao?
This can get a bit confusing so let’s get this straight now. The cocoa or cacao tree is one and the same thing.
The cocoa pods are cracked open to release cocoa beans. Some people use ‘cacao’ when they are referring to the first stage of cocoa when it’s raw (in powder, butter, beans and paste), and use ‘cocoa’ when referring to the processed form of that raw cocoa.
For the purposes of this article, and in our Athletic Greens mix, we refer to the beans as cocoa beans and to the supplement in our mix as cocoa bean polyphenol extract.
Speaking of that cocoa bean polyphenol extract...
...what are polyphenols?
Polyphenols are beneficial compounds found in plants and natural foods like berries, olives, tea, vegetables and - luckily for us - chocolate!
They exert strong antioxidant activity and include flavonoids, catechins and lignans, with over 8000 identified types.
What Are The Main Polyphenols Present In Cocoa Beans?
The main polyphenols in cocoa beans are:
→ flavonol glycosides
These polyphenols are helpful for humans due to their high antioxidant content, enabling them to scavenge and protect against the negative effects of free-radicals.
Excess free-radical activity damages cells and DNA, resulting in a wide range of negative health consequences such as inflammation and cancer.
Diseases of the cardiovascular system, in particular, are strongly linked to increased oxidation and inflammation, fuelled by free-radical activity.
Polyphenols in cocoa beans may:
✔ Benefit the cardiovascular system
By increasing NO (Nitric Oxide), promoting coronary vasodilation, relaxing blood vessels and preventing platelets from sticking together. The polyphenols in cocoa beans have also been shown to lower blood pressure.
✔ Promote healthy cholesterol levels
May decrease levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol (and prevent it from oxidizing), while increasing levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.
A little side note here: cholesterol is a waxy substance made in the body (by the liver) and found in some foods. Cholesterol is crucial for our body, however too much can increase the risk of heart disease. Cholesterol is moved around the body in the blood and attaches to lipoproteins. LDL (low density lipoprotein) is considered to be unhealthy if there is too much, while HDL (high density lipoprotein) is considered to be protective and a ‘good cholesterol’.
✔ Reduce the symptoms of IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)
By inhibiting inflammatory cytokines.
✔ Play a role in cancer prevention
By exerting anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiproliferative activity, polyphenols in cocoa beans may inhibit the growth of certain cancers.
Other potential benefits of polyphenols (not specifically linked to cocoa bean polyphenols) include protection against:
→ Neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease
→ Complications of Type 2 Diabetes
Here’s a study I bet you want to know about...
One study reported that increased chocolate consumption was associated with far better outcomes for patients who’d previously suffered a heart attack.
I told you chocolate (in moderation) is good for you!
“So why should I take cocoa bean polyphenol extract...can’t I just eat more chocolate?”
Great question! You can always eat more chocolate, but if you’re seeking the benefits of cocoa bean polyphenols, you may be disappointed.
A high concentration of polyphenols gives chocolate its characteristically bitter flavour, with most manufacturing processes aiming to minimise this to suit the modern human palate.
Between 10% and 100% of polyphenolic content is lost from bean to bar, which is why taking an enriched extract is an easy way to reap the benefits.
Furthermore, aside from chocolate, most people don’t get the benefits of cocoa bean polyphenols in their diet. And as you might well understand, it’s better to get these in a concentrated form, rather than combined with a lot of sugar.
“What if I eat more dark chocolate?”
Again, yes! And you’re on the right track if you’re eating 80%+ cocoa dark chocolate. However, most people don’t enjoy it and would rather have standard chocolate, which typically has a cocoa content of 30% or less.
How To Maximise The Benefits Of Cocoa Beans
The therapeutic dosage of cocoa bean polyphenols is generally believed to be around 500–1000 mg per day, taken with meals. There are no known cautions or contraindications to cocoa bean polyphenols.
In our mix, cocoa bean polyphenol extract combines well with green tea extract as they are both plant based antioxidant compounds that are often sold together.
It also works well with other antioxidants in Athletic Greens such as vitamins A, C & E, Alpha Lipoic Acid, and with Policosanol and Beta Glucans to help lower LDL cholesterol.
Sit back and relax, because aside from an energy boost, most benefits from cocoa bean polyphenol extract are longer term, e.g. supporting heart health, and helping to prevent circulatory diseases and disorders.
All good things take time, right? However, you may find that in combination with other ingredients in Athletic Greens (e.g. CoQ10), you get a boost to your circulation and a noticeable “energy boost”.
In summary: Did I mention that cocoa beans are good for you?
Cocoa bean polyphenol extract is an excellent way to obtain the well-researched benefits of chocolate, without unhealthy additions like sugar or milk solids.
The polyphenols appear to provide strong antioxidant activity, support cardiovascular health, decrease inflammation and play a role in cancer prevention.The extract also gives our greens mix a simply delicious taste! Try it and I promise you’ll love it too.