Why are humans so obsessed with chocolate? We have been cultivating the cacao tree for at least three millennia, and historians believe that ancient Mesoamericans used to drink beverages made from fermented cacao seeds as early as 1900 BC. Cacao is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on Earth. Here are five things we Love about Cacao!
Cacao is one of the highest known plant-based sources of antioxidants, as it contains more than three times as many polyphenols as red wine and up to four times as many as green tea! Antioxidants are molecules that may protect cells from the effects of free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage DNA and cell membranes.
2. Mood lift
Cacao has been shown to improve mood and brain function by increasing levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, in the central nervous system. Serotonin is the feel-good chemical in your brain that helps regulate mood, appetite, sleep and memory. When cacao powder is fermented into cocoa, its content of the amino acid tryptophan increases dramatically! Polyphenols in cacao have been found to inhibit the breakdown of serotonin, making you feel happy and relaxed!
3. Lowering blood pressure
The polyphenols in cacao appear to help lower blood pressure as they block enzymes that cause arteries to tighten. Scientists believe cacao may lower blood pressure because dark cacao contains a small amount of caffeine. A recent study found that cacao powder is just as effective as coffee at increasing the body's resting metabolic rate, which is significant for heart health and weight loss.
4. Cardiovascular health,
Cacao's magnesium content can help reduce high blood pressure, as it relaxes blood vessels and reduces the risk of thickening arteries, which increases your chances of heart disease. Cacao has been touted for its health benefits, which include anti-inflammatory properties. New research from the University of Toronto suggests cacao could help blood bolster vascular health and even help prevent heart disease.
5. A Source of Magnesium ,
Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a role in hundreds of enzymatic reactions in the human body, including over 300 enzymes related to metabolism. Magnesium-rich cacao can be an excellent way to obtain this important mineral. Cacao contains more than 10 times the magnesium found in other foods.
So the human obsession with chocolate or cacao specifically is truly justified, not only as a great tasting mood booster but one that has a long history of tradition and proven health benefits.