Cocoa bean

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Cocoa bean Quick Facts
Name: Cocoa bean
Origin Being Cocoa tree native to America, it has been originated in Mexico and Central America. It was consumed before 5000 years ago by pre-Columbian cultures. It could be found in Orinoco and Amazon basins.
Colors Dark brownish
Taste Bitter
Calories 196 Kcal./cup
Major nutrients Copper (362.00%)
Iron (149.00%)
Manganese (143.48%)
Magnesium (102.14%)
Phosphorus (90.14%)
Health benefits Antioxidant activities, Brain function, Treat diabetes, Heal wounds, Reduce obesity
The beans which have been derived from the Cocoa tree are called Cocoa beans. The other common names for Cocoa bean are Cocoa, Cacao and Cacao bean. It is used to extract cocoa butter and cocoa solids. It is used as the basis for making chocolate. The term cocoa was derived from the Spanish word “cacao” and Nahuatl word “cacahuatl”. Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario are the three main varieties of the cocoa plant. Cocoa is loaded with antioxidants such as flavonoids and procyanidins that help to provide anti-aging properties. It has also high concentration of epicatechin that is helpful for cardiovascular health. Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Nigeria and Cameroon are the largest exporters of Cocoa beans whereas United States, Netherlands, Belgium-Luxembourg and Malaysia are the highest importers of Cocoa beans in the world.

It is a tropical tree originating in the Upper Amazon Basin bordering the eastern slopes of the Andes. Its northward migration into Central America and Mexico, although lost in history, has been established using modern molecular techniques, which have documented phylogenetic relations among present germ plasm. In pre-Hispanic times cacao cultivation and cacao seed processing evolved into different technologies, to the extent that the culture is acknowledged as one of the most sophisticated pre-Hispanic agroforestry systems. Cacao seeds did not just have religious, ceremonial, medicinal, and bever age uses, but even became a common currency among native Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs. Because of their long history and present value, cacao trees and beans have been widely described from morphological and taxonomic perspectives.

History

Being Cocoa tree native to America, it has been originated in Mexico and Central America. It was consumed before 5000 years ago by pre-Columbian cultures. It could be found in Orinoco and Amazon basins. It was used as a common currency all over Mesoamerica. Cocoa was vital in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. In the mid-17th century, chocolate got introduced by Spaniards to Europe. Cocoa tree was introduced to Philippines and West Indies. African. Tetteh Quarshie introduced it to modern Ghana and Gold coast.

Varieties/Types     

  1. Criollo

Typically, it has red, white, green to yellow pods with bumpy or warty skin and pointed tips. The beans are light purple to white in color. The beans have fine flavor.

  1. Forastero

It is grown in Africa as well. Ghana and Ivory coast is the highest producer of cocoa beans. The color of the pod ranges from red to yellow.

  1. Trinitario

The name was derived from island nation called Trinidad. It is used to enhance the flavor of chocolate. It was firstly planted in 1834 in Ceylon and again the plantation repeated in 1880. It was transplanted to Madagascar, Fiji, Singapore, Samoa and Tanzania. Due to its fine flavor it is used for making chocolates.

http://www.amanochocolate.com/blog/theobroma-cacao-the-tree-of-life-varieties-of-cacao/

Nutritional value

In 86 grams of unsweetened dry powder of Cocoa, we could find 2.58 g of moisture, 196 calories, 16.86 g of protein, 11.78 g of total lipid fat, 4.99 g of ash, 49.79 g of carbohydrate, 31.8 g of total dietary fiber and 1.5 g of total sugars. The same serving size of Cocoa bean offers 3.258 mg of Copper, 11.92 mg of Iron, 3.3 mg of Manganese, 429 mg of Magnesium, 631 mg of Phosphorus, 31.8 g of Total dietary fiber, 0.252 g  of Tryptophan, 5.86 mg  of Zinc, 1.012 g of Valine, 0.654 g of Isoleucine, 49.79 g of Carbohydrate, 0.667 g of Threonine, 16.86 g of Protein, 11.78 g of Total lipid fat, 1311 mg of Potassium, 1.023 g   of Leucine, 0.845 g of Lysine, 0.292 g of Histidine, 12.3 µg of Selenium, 0.207 mg of Vitamin B2, 1.879 mg of Niacin and 110 mg of Calcium.

Health Benefits of Cocoa bean

The fermented seeds of Cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao) are called Cocoa beans. It is inherent to Amazon region and is a vital crop in South and Central America. Cocoa beans have high content of minerals such as magnesium, iron, copper, phosphorus, calcium and manganese. It is an excellent source of potassium, selenium and zinc. It also possess monounsaturated fats such as palmitic acid, stearic acid and oleic acid.Cocoa bean is packed with various health benefits such as providing relief from constipation, cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure, cancer, bronchial asthma, diabetes, neurodegenerative disease and chronic fatigue syndrome. It helps to heal the wound fast, improve cardiovascular health, skin care and brain health. It is also helpful for curing deficiency of copper. It helps to enhance mood and has positive effects on neurotoxicity.

  1. Maintains blood pressure

Cocoa bean has flavonoids that help to lower blood pressure and enhance elasticity of blood vessels. The research shows that it has positive effect on diastolic and systolic blood pressure. It is possible due to antioxidants that promote the nitric oxide production that helps to relax blood vessels. Additionally, it maintains the normal circulatory system. (1) (2) (3) (4)

  1. Antioxidant activities

The study shows that cocoa bean has high antioxidants in comparison to green tea, black tea and red wine. The antioxidants helps to eradicate oxygen based free radicals from the body. Moreover, it has numerous phenolic phytochemicals and flavonoids. (5)

Consuming chocolate has been reported to increase the total antioxidant capacity in human blood plasma, since cocoa polyphenols exhibit strong free radical scavenging activity. Monomeric epicatechins and oligomeric procyanidins are effective in inhibiting both dioxygenase and 5-lipoxygenase, therefore preventing oxidation. Regular intake of cocoa and its derivatives increases the plasma level of antioxidants, which is a desirable effect because it protects against reactive oxygen species (ROS).

  1. Brain function

Cocoa is rich in flavonol which has positive effects on brain health. It helps to assist on memory functions and learning. It promotes the blood flow to brain and helps to cure vascular disorders. (6) (7) (8) (9)

  1. Maintains cholesterol level

The study shows that cocoa has hypocholesterolemic and hypoglycemic effects on cholesterol and glucose levels respectively. It helps to lower LDL cholesterol level and glucose. It increase the level of HDL cholesterol level. (10)

  1. Treat diabetes

Cocoa intake effectively improves insulin resistance as well as glucose metabolism. It also regulates the level of sugar in the body. Proanthocyanidins inhibits the formation of cataracts which is promoted by diabetes. It has antioxidant activity that helps to treat diabetic problems such as diabetic nephrotoxicity. Cocoa eliminates free radicals due to the presence of therapeutic properties that helps to treat the cellular injuries. The research shows that the intake of flavonol helps to improve the vascular functions of diabetic patients. (11) (12) (13) (14)

  1. Helpful for bronchial asthma

Cocoa beans have theophylline and xanthine that helps to relax bronchial spasms and opens constricted bronchial tubes. It promotes the flow of air easily and cures allergies, shortness of breath and asthma. Its intake provides relief from the conditions such as bronchial asthma. (15)

  1. Heal wounds

The extracts of Cocoa are believed to possess wound healing and therapeutic properties. The extracts prevent the chances of infections in the human body. It is also useful to eliminate bacteria named Helicobacter pylori from the human body. (16) (17)

  1. Reduce obesity

The study conducted shows that cocoa helps to prevent obesity due to high fat diet. The intake of cocoa helps to modulate lipid metabolism and reduce transport and synthesis of fatty acids. It also improves thermogenesis which is a heat production in liver and white adipose tissues. (18)

  1. Cardiovascular functions

The study shows that cocoa has positive effects on cardiovascular health. It has high content of flavonoids such as catechin, procyanidin and epicatechin. It has antioxidant properties that helps to prevent cell damage that helps to strengthen hart. It helps to promote endothelial functions and stimulates HDL cholesterol. It also prevents the fatal blood clot formation that results in cardiac failure and stroke. It has anti-platelet effects also. It prevents proliferation of athrombosis and atherosclerosis that are the causes of cardiovascular ailments. (19) (20) (21) (22) (23) (24) (25)

  1. Enhance mood

The intake of cocoa has antidepressant activities on physiological processes. The study shows that the flavonols in cocoa assist in enhancing mood, promote cognitive activities and counteract depression. It has neurochemical phenylethylamine that promotes enhance feelings of contentment and enhance aphrodisiac effects. (26) (27)

  1. Prevent constipation

The study shows that intake of cocoa husk provides therapeutic properties in curing chronic constipation as well as problems related to bowel functions. The daily intake of cocoa products helps to promote the functions of bowel and its movements. (28) (29)

  1. Treats cancer

Cocoa inhibits the cancer cells growth without affecting normal healthy cells. The study shows that anti-proliferative and chemopreventive qualities possessed in cocoa. The healing effects in cocoa helps to treat prostate cancer and colon cancer. (30) (31)

Carcinogenic  mechanisms  have  been  associated  with ROS, and different population  studies have shown that regular intake of antioxidant-rich  foods confers protec tion  against  several  types  of  cancer.  Therefore, diets including high dosages of cacao antioxidants result in a decreasing  presence  of ROS, avoiding their  genotoxic and epigenetic carcinogens and inhibiting the complex processes  leading  to  cancer  development.

Studies performed in male rats found that cocoa liquor procyanidins showed chemopreventive activity, reducing the incidence and multiplicity of lung carcinomas and thyroid adenomas. In female rats these compounds inhibited mammary and pancreatic tumorigenesis.

  1. Treats deficiency of copper

Copper helps to cure deficiency of copper. The study shows that cocoa helps to improve the level of hemoglobin, count of leucocyte and copper. It prevents the disease related to copper deficiency such as neutropenia, anemia and leukopenia. (32) (33)

  1. Chronic fatigue

Cocoa has calming effects on the chronic fatigue patients. It has attenuating effects that helps to release anandamide, serotonin and phenylethylamine. It helps to combat chronic fatigue syndrome and prevents oxidative stress on neuronal cells. (34) (35)

  1. Skin problems

Cocoa is rich in flavonol content that helps to lower the effect of UV induced erythema and lower scaling and skin roughness. It promotes hydration, elasticity and density of skin. Cocoa has epicatechin that helps to elevate oxygen saturation of hemoglobin, contributes endogenous photo-protection and stimulates the blood flow in dermal tissues. (36) (37) (38) (39)

Consumption of high-flavanol cocoa improves skin hydration and reduces transepidermal water loss. Oral or topical procyanidin inhibits ultra violet   radiation    induced    erythematic    response    by reducing human skin sensitivity to the deleterious effects of UV light. It is demonstrated  that single doses  lead  to  blood  flow  increases  in  cutaneous  and subcutaneous  tissues just 2 hours after ingestion. Cocoa polyphenols enhance connective tissues such as glycosaminoglycans and collagen.

  1. Neurodegenerative ailments

Catechin and epicatechin has positive effects on treating Alzheimer’s disease. The research shows that synergistic qualities and aids oxidative stress in mind. It prevents neuronal cell damage. (40) (41) (42

  1. Prevent magnesium deficiency

Cocoa products help to prevent the magnesium deficiency in the body. The study shows that daily intake of cocoa products helps to prevent the negative effects of magnesium deficiency. (43) (44)

18. Lower inflammation

Inflammation is a complex process, and several bio markers are used to identify chronic inflammation in humans. Evidence suggests that cocoa can effectively modify the inflammatory process. It is reported that cocoa monomeric catechins and oligomeric procyanidins have a significant anti-inflammatory effect. The mechanism involved seems to be through inhibition of a neutrophil oxidative burst, thus reducing adhesion molecules expression. Cocoa flavanols in high doses suppress the level of plasma leukotrienes, which contribute to inflammation in asthma and bronchitis. These compounds are able to modulate eicosanoids synthesis and effects, as well as mediate a series of events leading to acute inflammation.

Precautions                                                                                                 

Some might get allergic reactions to cocoa beans.

How to Eat         

  • It is used for making chocolates.
  • Cocoa butter and cocoa powder is used as an ingredient in chocolate industry.
  • The powder form is used in fudge, cookies, muffins, cake and ice creams.

Other Facts        

  • Ivory coast, Indonesia, Ghana, Nigeria, Ecuador and Brazil are the largest producer of cocoa beans in the world.
  • Aztecs use Cocoa beans as a currency.
  • National Cocoa Day is celebrated on December 13.
  • Maya Indians discovered enchanting properties of cocoa bean.
  • In 1585, cocoa was exported to Europe.
  • It is not used for producing white chocolate.
  • Cocoa beans have caffeine in it which helps to provide energy to the body.
  • United States is the highest importer of cocoa beans.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocoa_bean

http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/cocoa-beans.html

http://mobile-cuisine.com/did-you-know/cocoa-fun-facts/

http://www.scienceforkidsclub.com/cocoa-beans.html

http://mamiverse.com/facts-about-cacao-beans-65969/

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-11490/fun-facts-about-cocoa-infographic.html

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