(NaturalNews) Unsweetened, raw cocoa powder, the same stuff that is used to make that sinfully delicious "guilty pleasure" food chocolate, has a multitude of health benefits. They are often overlooked because it is so often incorporated into overly sweetened treats like candy bars.
However, the raw powder that is the basis for all of these indulgent treats is surprisingly low in calories, high in fiber, and rich in several potent antioxidants. In fact, when added to some heated skim organic milk and with a touch of stevia sweetener, you've got yourself an antioxidant-packed, delicious, low fat treat.
Cocoa contains flavonoids
Cocoa flavonoids are a potent source of antioxidants. Flavonoids are plant derived compounds which pursue and kill free radicals. Free radicals cause cell death and mutation, so flavonoids are a potent weapon against cancer.
Most plants contain flavonoids in varying concentrations. It is thought that these compounds are one of the primary ways a plant can help heal its wounds and fend off invasive pests. This is probably why they are so useful to the human body's defense mechanisms.
Flavonoid content is the primary reason cocoa is such a healthy food. Cocoa in its raw form is very high in these compounds ounce for ounce. Cocoa flavonoids are also thought to inhibit the oxidation of harmful cholesterol. They may lower the likelihood of artery plaque build-up by promoting more efficient circulation. Daily consumption of cocoa powder can help fend off coronary disease, stroke and several types of cancer.
Cocoa is rich in theobromine
Theobromine is a member of the alkaloid family of phytoechemicals. It is the chemical in cocoa that makes chocolate toxic to cats and dogs as well as some other animals, but of course it is completely harmless to the human body and even has some therapeutic value.
This chemical is known for its ability to help lower blood pressure by helping to relax the blood vessels and allow for a more free and unobstructed flow of blood. This action also helps to boost circulation. Theobromine also has stimulant effects similar to caffeine but unlike caffeine, it does not stimulate the central nervous system.
Cocoa may protect your skin from UV damage
The high antioxidant content of cocoa may not just be healthy for all your internal parts, but it also may be a great anti-aging weapon when it comes to the beauty of your skin. A study found that those who ate 70 percent cocoa content dark chocolate every day for several weeks seemed to have a naturally higher tolerance to UV exposure.
After being exposed to UV lamps, they exhibited less skin reddening and appeared to also have less cellular damage than those who had not consumed chocolate or who had consumed the type of chocolate that did not contain high levels of cocoa. Their conclusion was that the cocoa-rich diet contributed to the skin's ability to protect itself against UV damage.
Cocoa contains phenylethylamine, a mood boosting chemical
Cocoa contains a chemical that is also found in our brain called phenylethylamine. This natural chemical is partly responsible for regulating mood and also may play a role in boosting levels of serotonin, which is one of the most potent "pleasure" chemicals.
This is part of the reason that chocolate is so often viewed as a sweet treat that instantly makes you feel better when you're down. This chemical, combined with the slightly stimulating effects of several of the other constituents found in the cocoa bean are likely the perfect synergy of mood-enhancing elements.
About the author: Danna Norek founded AuraSensory.com. Product line includes an MSM & Vitamin C Ester Hydrating & Brightening Face Cream and all natural plumping Hyaluronic Acid Serum (greatly increases skin's moisture retention), Sulfate Free Natural Shine Enhancing Shampoo and Deep Hydration Conditioner, a very effective natural deodorant, and other body care. Visit to learn more about what chemicals & ingredients to avoid in your beauty and personal care products at AuraSensory.com .