The sweet and sometimes bitter taste of chocolate is known worldwide and is one of the most popular flavors. Chocolate is made from cocoa plant, which has been used for human consumption for thousands of years, dating back to ancient South Americans, used both for taste and purported health benefits.
Over the years, the health applications of cocoa have evolved further, backed by scientific proof. From the cocoa plant, cocoa beans, cocoa solids, and cocoa butter are extracted. While the cocoa beans are used to make chocolate, cocoa solids are used to make cocoa powder and cocoa butter is used for topical application.
Uses of Cocoa In The Healthcare Industry
According to the cocoa market analysis, the prices in the market are expected to rise, driven by a steep demand and limited supply, which is concentrated in only a few areas of the world, due to climate requirements. The key cocoa producing countries are Ivory Coast for 40 percent of all production followed by Ghana at 20 percent and Indonesia at 9 percent. The main exporting countries are Ivory Coast for 37 percent of exports, followed by Ghana for 19 percent, and Cameroon for 7 percent, while the main importing countries are the Netherlands for 23 percent, the U.S. for 16 percent and Germany for 10 percent. The demand for cocoa is further driven by its usage in the healthcare industry in the form of cocoa powder.
There are plenty of nutritional benefits of cocoa powder, it includes protein, calcium, potassium, iron, Vitamin B6, magnesium, dietary fiber and antioxidants with zero percent cholesterol.
Cocoa powder aids in enhancing heart health in various ways. The flavonoids that are present in cocoa beans and cocoa powder help in lowering blood pressure and improving the elasticity of blood vessels and veins. Antioxidants present in cocoa help in controlling pressure on blood vessels and in overall protecting cells and strengthening the hearth. Cocoa has also been found to have hypocholesterolemic effects on cholesterol, with a marked reduction in LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol while increasing the levels of HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol. The effects of cocoa on cholesterol further help in reducing the risks of heart disease.
The presence of flavonoids in the cocoa powder helps provide neuroprotective benefits to the brain thereby enhancing the overall competency, learning function and memory of the brain. The flavonoids also help in boosting cognitive function, while the chemical phenylethylamine found in cocoa promotes the feeling of satisfaction.
Helps In Diabetes
It may seem counterintuitive that a sweet food can help in diabetes, a condition where patients are asked to avoid sweets. However, incorporating cocoa in the daily diet has been found to have improved the insulin resistance of diabetics and also aid in the hypermetabolism of glucose. Apart from regulating sugar levels, cocoa also has proanthocyanidins, which help in preventing the formation of contracts that diabetics are often at high risk of. The antioxidants present in cocoa treat conditions such as nephrotoxicity, another condition that diabetics are at risk of.
Treats Bronchial Asthma
Cocoa is beneficial in treating bronchial complications in a natural manner, as the alkaloids present in cocoa beans and cocoa powder, such as xanthine and theophylline, help in relaxing bronchial spasms and open constricted bronchial tubes. This action helps in treating bronchial asthma and promotes easy breathing while reducing shortness of breath.
Cocoa butter is a great moisturizer in the form of a topical application and is commonly used in the cosmetics industry in the form of lip balms and lotions. The flavanol in cocoa hydrates the skin, decreasing roughness, and increasing its elasticity while protecting it from the harmful impact of ultraviolet rays. However, for people with sensitive skin, cocoa products may cause skin allergies and should be used with caution.
General Healing Power
Even if a person is not suffering from any kind of health condition, consuming cocoa extracts are immensely helpful in boosting the overall general healing power and preventing illnesses. The pharmaceutical industry has also been using cocoa extracts in their products aimed at treating wounds. According to studies, cocoa has been found to act as an active agent in preventing the growth of harmful bacteria in the body. The consumption of cocoa has also been found to have mood-boosting elements, helping reduce stress levels, and enhancing overall health.
Globally, the healthcare industry is turning towards natural sources of health boosters, in the form of superfoods, to cater to a population that is conscious about the overuse of artificial chemicals. Cocoa has emerged as an immensely popular superfood that has already been in great demand for its delectable taste.
While the demand for cocoa has been consistent from the food and beverage industries, especially for confectionaries, sweets and baking products, the demand from the healthcare industry is growing rapidly.
The immense demand and limited supply are resulting in increased initiatives for sustainable production of cocoa plants, as the ideal climate for the plant is considerably limited to a small region.
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