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Cocoa Health Protective Properties

Posted by Manuela Boyle on 12 December 2021
Cocoa Health Protective Properties

Due to its high concentration of catechins and procyanidins, cocoa may have beneficial health effects against oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, risk factors for cancer and other chronic diseases (Maskarinec G. Cancer protective properties of cocoa: a review of the epidemiologic evidence. Nutr Cancer. 2009;61(5):573-9. doi: 10.1080/01635580902825662. PMID: 19838930).

There are many many benefits of the mighty cacao bean, but let’s talk about the 3 most impressive points. 

#1 – Antioxidant powerhouse

We hear the word ‘antioxidant’ so often, but some of us wonder, why are they so important? Cut an apple and leave it out on the kitchen counter – it turns brown. Squeeze lemon juice over it, and the browning is significantly reduced or eliminated. This is the power of an antioxidant. It prevents the cells from oxidizing.

Cacao beans contain more antioxidants (polyphenols and/or flavanols) than many other well-known superfoods like blueberries, acai berries, green tea, and red wine. 

#2 – Fibre booster

Did you know that just one tablespoon of powdered cacao provides 2 grams of fibre? Fibre improves gut health, enhances heart function, and stabilizes blood sugar

#3 – Stress reducer

Studies show that cacao may soothe moods associated with anxiety and depression

How do we take advantage of all these benefits?

  • Choose the right product. Follow these guidelines to help you select from the many brands of boutique dark chocolate bars and powders on the market:
  • Cacao and cocoa are often used interchangeably not the same: powdered 100% cacao is the most pure form because it has been separated from cocoa butter (the fat) of the cacao bean. 
  • If the label says ‘processed with alkali’ – pass. This process is also known as ‘Dutching’, and it removes most of the antioxidant content.
  • When purchasing the solid variety, look for a bar that contains 70% or higher cacao solids. Check the ingredient list and pass if it has added milkfat or oils.

New to dark chocolate?

Just like coffee, dark chocolate is an acquired taste. We add milk (fat) and sugar to cut the bitterness of both products. You wouldn’t switch to black coffee overnight, and the same is true with switching to a darker chocolate. Start with 70% and work your way up to a higher percentage and remember to include pure powdered cacao into recipes.

A Date with Chocolate
Serving size: 1

1/2 small banana
1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
1/2 cup unsweetened plant-based milk

Optional toppings:
1/4 cup fresh raspberries

Place the banana, cacao powder and milk in a high-powered blender and puree until smooth. Dress with the topping, if desired.

Author:Manuela Boyle
Tags:NewsCancerFood as Medicine


  • The Institute for Functional Medicine
  • Society for Integrative Oncology
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
  • Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia