Cocoa

By EAT-SMARTER
Updated on 14. May. 2020

Anyone who drinks real cocoa usually wants more. Learn about the chocolatey substance here.

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cocoa powder

Cocoa Powder...

 

  • ...supports the immune system. Among the numerous natural plant dyes \in cocoa powder are some that can fight viruses and inhibit inflammation.
  • ...increases brain power. Cocoa powder could work wonders for forgetfulness and lack of concentration. Researchers have found that after eating cocoa, the brain's blood flow improves significantly, making it more efficient. In a scientific test, participants who were 60 years old achieved the memory performance of 30- to 40-year-olds within three months after regular consumption of cocoa powder.
  • ...stabilizes blood sugar. Recent studies show cocoa powder can not only lower blood pressure but also regulate blood sugar levels. Certain plant dyes (catechins) are mainly responsible for these positive effects.
  • ...protects the cells of the body. There are more antioxidants in pure cocoa powder than in fruit. These secondary plant compounds, colorants, flavorings and tannins protect our cells from the harmful effects of free radicals and can even prevent cancer. The polyphenols also promote healthy blood vessels.
  • ...has a relaxing effect. Those who have sleep problems often doze off after a cup of cocoa. The magnesium in cocoa powder, which is abundant at 414 milligrams per 100 grams, can generally relieve cramps and tension.
  • ...strengthens the heart. Anyone who regularly consumes cocoa powder lives longer — just 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder a day is enough.
  • ...strengthens bones. Drinking cocoa regularly not only helps the heart, brain and blood vessels — even the combination of 115 milligrams of calcium and 656 milligrams of phosphorus in pure cocoa powder ensures strong bones and good teeth. If low-fat milk is added, the positive effect is naturally even greater. The aromatic beans contain a small amount of vitamin D2, a bone-strengthening vitamin found mainly in dark chocolate and pure cocoa powder.

What You Should Know About Cocoa

The bitter powder made from cocoa beans was as popular as money among the Aztecs as a means of payment. However, they did not invent the production of cocoa, nor did the Maya, who are often credited for the inception. The Olmecs, who lived a good 1,000 years earlier in Mexico, are said to have cultivated cocoa plants.

The Maya and the Aztecs refined the cultivation of cocoa further and created chocolate. Cocoa then was introduced to Europe through the Spanish conqueror Hernan Cortez, to whom the legendary Aztec ruler had given a cocoa plant as a gift. He brought the delicious culinary souvenir to the Spanish court, where it soon became fashionable to cook and slurp a creamy hot liquid made with cocoa and water, seasoned with vanilla or cayenne pepper, and sweetened with honey or sugar.

This ancient method, which was already used by the Maya and Aztecs, is almost unchanged today. The beans of the cocoa plant are not only used to make the basis for drinks, but of course also for all kinds of chocolate. 

The production of cocoa powder is quite complex: One cleans the cocoa beans mechanically and roasts them, which gives them their taste and dark color. Then the shells are removed and the beans are ground in special cocoa mills. This process produces the so-called cocoa butter, which is actually an oily liquid. This produces hard press cakes, from which the cocoa powder is finally ground. It is then packed pure and without additives such as sugar.

Season

Cocoa is imported all year round. It is therefore not dependent on the season.

Taste

Slightly deoiled cocoa powder still contains at least 20 percent residual fat or cocoa butter. Although it dissolves less easily in milk or water, it is considered to be the highest quality variety.

Highly deoiled cocoa powder has a fat content of only 10 percent. This makes it easily soluble, but it tastes much less aromatic. In terms of calorie content, strongly deoiled cocoa powder is only slightly lower than weakly deoiled cocoa powder.

Here you can find all cocoa recipes.

How Healthy Is Cocoa Powder?

Although cocoa is not exactly low in calories, it is considered healthy. After all, it is rich in protein and contains plenty of fiber. The gentle stimulating effect that many people experience with cocoa is based on its content of theobromine, theophylline and (very little) caffeine. Pure cocoa powder also contains minerals, especially magnesium and potassium, as well as valuable antioxidants that protect our cells from free radicals and premature aging.

Whether cocoa really makes you happy is disputed. What is certain is that it contains the amino acid tryptophane, which is converted into the happiness hormone serotonin in the brain. Serotonin in turn has a mood-lifting effect and can help with depressive moods. On top of that, pure cocoa is also good for the heart and circulation because the secondary plant substances, which are abundantly present, have blood pressure lowering properties and thus have a positive influence. Thus, they reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Cocoa is not considered a classic stimulant, but like coffee it has a stimulating effect. The reason for this is the vasodilating, heart stimulating ingredient theobromine.

Drinking cocoa in moderation is therefore a pleasure that can contribute to health. Overly generous sweetening with honey or sugar naturally reduces the fitness factor of cocoa.

Nutritional values of cocoa per 100 grams  
Calories 337
Protein 23 grams
Fat 15 grams
Carbohydrates 10 grams
Fibers 35 grams

Shopping and Kitchen Tips

Shopping

Whether you buy weakly or heavily deoiled cocoa should rely on personal taste and the way you use it. For a drink that tastes of chocolate, it should be the weakly deoiled powder or so-called fine flavored cocoa; for baking and cooking, strongly deoiled cocoa is also suitable.

If you value cocoa produced in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way, it is best to use cocoa from an organic shop. If the product also bears the Fair Trade seal, you can be sure that the cocoa has been produced without child labor and under socially acceptable conditions.

Storage

Be sure to keep cocoa in a cool and dry place after opening the package for a long shelf life. The best way to store cocoa is in a screw-top jar or a tight-closing tin, because cocoa quickly adapts different odors and should therefore not be stored near coffee or tea.

What to Make With Cocoa

If you only know cocoa from ready-made mixtures, try this basic recipe: Bring 2 cups of milk with 1.5 tablespoons of cocoa powder to a slow boil. Stir constantly with a whisk or a wooden spoon so nothing burns. If you like the cocoa sweet, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar at the beginning. When it comes to the boil, turn off the heat and let the cocoa steep for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

You can also season your cocoa by adding vanilla, dried chili, cinnamon, ginger root or cloves to give the cocoa a special note.

Cocoa is also indispensable for baking delicacies like marble cakes, chocolate muffins and other pastries that taste chocolatey. Cocoa can also be used for desserts like chocolate pudding or mouuse au chocolat.

If you want to make your own chocolate, it's easy: All you have to do is mix cocoa powder, melted cocoa butter and a sweetener of your choice.

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