Cocoa tree is a plant, which produces cocoa pods, holding cocoa beans, so cocoa butter extracted by those beans is a natural plant food. Such as other plant-based foods cocoa butter has many naturally substances which exhibit the biological activity. These substances have been the field of many scientific studies.
Cocoa butter, used in chocolate production, is a source of energy, including minerals and vitamins, which body needs for growth and energy replenishment. Cocoa butter used in chocolate products can provide the needed compaction, portability and well liked form of carbohydrate fuel needed for athletes in training and competition. It can be part of a healthy diet if is consumed moderately.
Studies have shown that flavonoid-rich foods could offer cardiovascular benefits. The existence of these substances in cocoa butter has changed the perceived health benefits of the using of cocoa butter, mostly in chocolate form.
In addition to its relating-to-diet properties, the fats and carbohydrates existent in cocoa butter add to its appeal. Cocoa butter contains a large number of phytochemicals that are the physiologically active compounds found in cocoa plants that improve energy levels and feelings of well being after being consumed. The group of compounds called polyphenols has been shown to have antioxidant properties. The most abundant polyphenols in cocoa beans are the flavanols which are a sub-class of flavonoids
In cocoa butter are found different varieties and amounts of flavanols; flavanols levels also vary. The way cocoa butter is processed can influence the level of flavanols in the final product as well. In the processing of cocoa beans to make cocoa butter, some of the substances with health benefits can be destroyed due to temperature and chemical changes. After having certified the health benefits of these substances, cocoa beans processors have begun to adapt their processing methods and succeeded to reduce at minimum losses of these healthy substances.
Flavanols are powerful antioxidants and are considered to contribute to the body’s cells resistance against damage made by free radicals. These free radicals are formed by numerous processes, including when the body’s cells utilize oxygen for energy. Oxidative damage to the cells and tissues is considered to have a contribution to heart diseases. Cocoa butter is a good source of flavanols, catechin, epicatechin and complex procyanidins. The amounts of these natural chemical compounds present are often alike or greater than those present in fruits and vegetables. Studies indicated that cocoa flavonoids can inhibit LDL cholesterol, helping to inhibit the buildup of fibrous plaques on the arterial walls.
Consumption flavanol-rich cocoa butter and chocolate may affect cardiovascular biomarkers in a positive way. In taking of flavonoid-rich cocoa drinks by healthy humans has proved to increase the time taken for blood to clot and inhibit platelet activity. As increased platelet activation and stickiness leads to thrombosis and blockage of coronary arteries, this scientific discovery could be really important. Cocoa butter that is rich in flavanols could be associated with the modulation of the nitric oxide because it is reducing pro-inflammatory enzymes and thereby is reducing inflammation of blood vessels. The major functions of nitric oxide that is produced in the lining of blood vessels include opening up the arteries to increase blood flow, maintain elasticity and prevent platelets from adhering to artery walls. These mechanisms of protection are important for a good cardiovascular health. This is why the effects of nitric oxide may be responsible for possible beneficial effects of cocoa on blood pressure.
Studies have indicated that, one of the main fatty acids in cocoa butter, the stearic acid, is a unique long-chain saturated fatty acid that does not raise blood cholesterol because of being less well absorbed than other saturated fats. Studies on cocoa butter have also shown it to have a minimal effect on serum cholesterol and therefore it does not increase the risk of coronary heart disease.
It have been demonstrated that persons with a regular intake of food containing antioxidants, displayed a lower incidence of various types of cancer. It can be deduced that the intake of antioxidants, including those from cocoa butter and chocolate, inhibit the complex processes leading to cancer.