8 Amazing Health Benefits of Cacao

Cacao is a natural food with a wide range of health benefits. Cacao can enhance cognitive function, boost mental health and reduce oxidative stress with antioxidants. It supports cardiovascular health, metabolic health, and mediates the natural inflammatory response. Cacao can also boost one’s energy levels, strengthen bone and skin health, and even reduce the risk of cancer. It also contains many essential minerals for overall health, such as magnesium, calcium, and iron. The broad array of bio-actives makes it a complete healthy superfood for long-term wellbeing and happiness.

1. Cacao enhances cognitive function and boosts mental health

Cacao is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to mental health and function. Firstly, cacao contains theobromine, a natural, mild stimulant similar to caffeine, that interacts with adenosine receptors throughout our bodies1,2.This can lead to boosted energy levels and enhanced cognitive function that provides an all-round uplifting effect1,3–6. Cacao also contains several compounds that are similar to our own neurotransmitters, like dopamine, serotonin and anandamide. These compounds include tryptophan, tryptamine, phenylethylamine (PEA), and natural cannabinoids called N-acylethanolamines7–10. Together, these compounds are able to activate our natural reward pathways, improve focus, and elevate feelings of pleasure and joy11–14,14–21. The combination of all these brain enhancing components in one superfood promotes positive mental health and provides a beautiful sensation of joy, happiness, bliss and wellbeing.

Learn more about supporting mental health with cacao

2. Cacao contains antioxidants to manage oxidative stress

Oxidative stress is a state where there is an imbalance between reactive free radicals and our natural ability to inactivate them and repair the resulting damage. Free radicals are an important part of our natural immunity, but health problems can occur when there are too many of these reactive compounds in our body to handle. Cacao contains antioxidants called flavanols which scavenge free radicals and other reactive molecules in our bodies. This protects our cells from damage by oxidative stress and prevents the development of chronic inflammation22–27 Flavanols in cacao can inhibit the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes in our body when they become over-active and mediate our bodies’ natural inflammatory response26,27,30. This prevents excessive production and circulation of inflammatory molecules in our bodies and prevents the development of conditions associated with chronic inflammation, such as cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.

Learn more about oxidative stress, immunity and cacao

3. Cacao supports overall cardiovascular health

Thecardiovascular system consists of the heart, blood and blood vessels,and their job is to transport oxygen, carbon dioxide, nutrients andwaste products around the body. This system is important to ensurethat the body’s organs and muscles are well nourished andoxygenated for healthy function. Problems in the cardiovascularsystem can arise when one is dealing with oxidative stress, chronicinflammation, high blood pressure and diabetes and this may causeother issues. Cacao contains flavanols which can reduce oxidativestress and, in turn, reduce high blood pressure and chronicinflammation22–25,28.Cacao also contains theobromine, a known vasodilator that can helpreduce high blood pressure3.In this way, these components of cacao are able to support andimprove cardiovascular health.

4. Cacao reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes

Conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and obesity can lead to metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Other associated symptoms include chronic inflammation, increased resting heart rate and chronic stress. The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties of flavanols in cacao can lower high blood pressure, reduce oxidative stress and mediate an over-active inflammatory response. Theobromine also acts as a vasodilator in blood vessels to reduce high blood pressure and improve cardio vascular function. In this way, cacao is able to improve symptoms and conditions associated with metabolic syndrome and improve metabolic health3,22,25,26,29.

5. Cacao contains the natural stimulant theobromine to boost energy

Cacao containsthe natural stimulant, theobromine, which is derived from caffeine and exerts asimilar uplifting effect in the body. Theobromine works by blocking adenosinereceptors in the body and influences the effects of adenosine to boost energy,enhance focus and mood, and create an all-round uplifting effect3,29,31. Theobromine has some significant benefits over caffeine as it is less potent as a stimulant and doesn't over activate the adrenal system, providing stimulation without burnout. The outcome is an uplifting effect that is sustained, without big peaks and troughs often experienced with caffeine.

6. Cacao is a mood-enhancing aphrodisiac

The Aztecs may have been the first on record to draw a link between the cocoa bean and sexual desire: the emperor Montezuma was said to consume the bean in copious amounts to fuel his romantic trysts. Nowadays, scientists have analysed the aphrodisiac properties of chocolate, and attributed it to two main molecules it contains. One, tryptophan, is a building block of serotonin, a brain chemical involved in sexual arousal and mood. The other, phenylethylamine (PEA), a stimulant related to amphetamine, that is released in the brain when people fall in love. combine these two with theobromine that acts to dilate and open blood vessels and for some the body may experience an increase in desire as a result. It is no wonder we gift chocolate to our loved ones on Valentines day, the perfect superfood to get you in the mood.

7. Cacao can improve overall skin health

Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are both conditions that can cause a decline in skin condition and result in the development of acne. Psychological stress is also a known cause of reduced skin health and acne. These conditions have been documented to trigger acne in individuals and exacerbate these issues in a stubborn and continuous cycle2,45–47. Cacao flavanols are capable of countering oxidative stress and mediating the inflammatory response of the immune system. This can help to reduce damage to skin cells and improve skin condition22–26. Other components in cacao, such as tryptamine and PEA, are able to interact with serotonergic and dopaminergic pathways in our bodies to reduce mental and emotional stress, boost mood and enhance feelings of pleasure14–17,19,48,49. Reducing mental and emotional stress is important in slowing down over-active sebum production, which may also lead to the development of acne47. The key with cacao is not to consume it with too much sugar, as high sugar intake can exacerbate skin issues such as acne or blemishes. Further to this cacao butter in particular is an amazing antioxidant rich skin moisturiser that can be applied topically to improve skin quality and radiance. Combine periodical full cacao paste face rubs with daily use of cacao butter as a topical moisturiser with taking 20g of cacao orally to get your skin glowing again inside and out.

8. Cacao can help prevent cancer

Cacao contains several bioactive compounds that have beennoted for their protective effects against the development of cancer. Long-termchronic inflammation and oxidative stress are both conditions capable ofincreasing the risk of cancer development. These conditions can put stress onyour body and cause damage to your cells that may lead to dysfunction that mayresult in cancer. Flavanols in cacao are antioxidant compounds that scavengefree radicals and other reactive species in the body to prevent their damage toour cells. This then prevents the generation of dysfunctional cells andprevents excessive activation of the inflammatory response22,23,25–27. In this way, chronicinflammation and oxidative stress can be reduced by cacao flavanols and preventthe development of cancer. We have a saying 6 beans a day keeps the doctor away, as 8 beans of cacao (20-30g) has enough flavanols to keep your cells protected from oxidative stress and reduces the risk of developing cancer.

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