Everything you need to know about this delicious powder with multiple virtues!
A brief look at its history and use
The use of cocoa by man does not date from yesterday since it seems to date back to the 2nd millennium BC... The beans, first used as currency by some populations, were then reserved for the nobles who consumed them in the form of drinks or during religious ceremonies depending on the tribe. The drink of the Aztec nobles, composed of water, cocoa powder, chili pepper and roucou, was modernized by the colonial elite in the 15th century, who decided that bitterness was not so much of a taste and chose to add sugar to the mixture, and to prefer cinnamon to chili pepper. The ancestor of milk chocolate was born! It was at the Spanish court that milk was used instead of water to make the gourmet drink we know today. Louis XIV, not a big fan of morning Benco, contributed to delay its arrival in France.
How do we get cocoa? And chocolate / cocoa ?
Cocoa powder is obtained by grinding the almond contained in the cocoa bean. The pod (the fruit of the cocoa tree) contains about ten beans, rich in lipids and proteins. The powder obtained has given rise to a multitude of recipes and uses, both culinary and cosmetic, over the centuries.
France is an importer of cocoa, the majority of the production coming from West Africa, South-East Asia or Latin America. Faced with a highly fluctuating market and to defend their interests, the major producing countries and associated industrialists have joined together in an intergovernmental organization for cooperation and lobbying: COPAL (Cocoa Producing Countries), under the "Abidjan Charter". This organization includes 10 countries that represent 75% of the world's cocoa production.
After several stages, the beans are transformed into cocoa butter and oilcake, which once crushed give cocoa powder. The latter is the basis of all chocolate flavors: pastries, ice cream, confectionery, ganache, ... The cocoa butter is often used in chocolate, or by the cosmetics industry. You can also taste raw cocoa beans. As they have not been roasted, they have an antioxidant power up to 7 times higher than roasted cocoa. Finally, our famous chocolate is based on cocoa paste, to which we add different ingredients depending on the desired result.
The strengths of cocoa, especially for athletes
Please note that when we talk about cocoa here, we are talking about the following forms:
Raw cocoa (whole beans to be chewed or crushed, called nibs), more bitter than the roasted and processed form but much richer in nutrients and beneficial compounds. Raw cocoa can also be consumed crushed and added to preparations (smoothies, yoghurts, cakes, ...). The criollo variety will be less bitter and fruitier than the forastero or trinitario (more full-bodied and basic). Finally, it exists in powder form which will be much less sweet than industrial cocoa (and more beneficial).
Cocoa powder: obtained from cake, the pressed paste made from roasted beans.
Dark chocolate at 70% or more: of course, cocoa can also be consumed in the form of chocolate! It will then be necessary to take care of the final composition of the product (sugar content, oils, ingredients used, origin, BIO...) in order to get the most out of it. It is made from roasted beans, crushed and transformed into cocoa butter, to which sugar is added (more or less depending on the percentage chosen).
And finally, good news: some chocolate artisans have started to make dark chocolate bars with raw cocoa! Another way to consume cocoa in its least processed form to get all its benefits. Whatever your choice, make it in a reasoned way, paying particular attention to the quality of the cocoa chosen. And in moderation, because too much cocoa or chocolate can be harmful.
Back to the benefits of cocoa, especially in its raw form but also valid for chocolate with +70% cocoa and quality
- Cocoa is rich in polyphenols and flavonoids and therefore has anti-oxidant properties. The raw cocoa bean is one of the richest foods in antioxidants, 3 times higher than green tea. Some flavonoids have a vasodilator effect and improve cardiovascular health. Its antioxidant virtues would also have the effect of reducing insulin resistance and reducing the secretion of cortisol (the stress hormone).
- It is rich in theobromine, a bitter compound whose family also includes caffeine. Its name is derived from Theobroma, which is the generic name of the cocoa tree. This molecule has energizing and stimulating properties. To feel the stimulating effects, it is recommended to consume 2 to 4 raw beans in the morning (up to 8) or 2 teaspoons for the powder version / 2 squares for the bar version.
- Cocoa is low in sugars and rich in minerals: magnesium, iron and zinc, which are all very important for athletes at different levels (muscular, immune system, stress...). Zinc is a powerful antioxidant that fully participates in the health of the immune system, as well as in many metabolic reactions. Magnesium will have an important action in particular at the muscular level and will take part in the reduction of the cramps.
These minerals are better preserved (and therefore more numerous) in raw cocoa beans. Its low sugar content allows the athlete to avoid variations in glycemia and therefore, the negative effects linked to it (fatigue, wall, nausea, ...). Consumed in the form of raw nibs or chocolate with a minimum of 70% cocoa, two squares are enough to have a significant magnesium intake and feel the anti-stress benefits. However, it is not recommended to consume the whole plate!
- Cocoa makes you happy: according to numerous studies (notably from the University of Michigan), cocoa acts on certain neurotransmitters, thus increasing the production ofendorphins and serotonin, the "happiness hormone". It would thus lead to a feeling of euphoria and well-being, thus helping to reduce stress and boost morale. This hormonal balance would also have positive influences to fight against premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
- Cocoa contains phenylethylamine, an alkaloid that also generates the secretion of endorphins, but also of hormones that can be assimilated to pleasure (especially sexual). Cocoa is therefore considered an aphrodisiac.
- Cocoa is an interesting source of quality lipids: rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which help regulate blood cholesterol levels: they reduce LDL-cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol, the cause of cardiovascular pathologies) and increase HDL-cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol).
Where to find cocoa at Holyfat?
Holyfat is a blend of, among other good things, 100% pure unsweetened cocoa in its Cocoa-Salt, Cocoa-Orange or Cocoa-Chilli recipes as well as in the Cocoa-Coconut and Cocoa-Peanut bar recipes! We do not add any sugar to the recipes, our spices combined with the bitterness of cocoa guarantee an original and pronounced taste to the mixtures, very appreciated during or after an endurance effort!
Nutritional values of cocoa (unsweetened)
*Data from CIQUAL 2022