Cocoa - Unhealthy or Healthy?

Cocoa - Unhealthy or Healthy?

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The Maya and Mexican natives thought cocoa was a gift from the gods. Cocoa beans were so valuable that the Aztecs used them like money. It was not entirely irrational: raw cocoa contains healing substances like hardly any other food: it "makes you happy", it protects the cells, lowers your blood pressure, supplies the body with magnesium and iron. And it also tastes great. The most important facts:

  • Raw cocoa contains magnesium to a large extent and potassium and vitamin E in large quantities. It supports blood flow, muscles, nerves, cells and the biochemical metabolism.
  • Raw cocoa creates positive feelings up to euphoria. It promotes the release of dopamine and even helps against depression.
  • For chocolate, you should prefer dark ones. The darker the chocolate, the higher the proportion of raw cocoa and therefore the amount of magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc.
  • The theobromine contained in the cocoa beans lowers blood pressure and keeps the cardiovascular system healthy.
  • To savor the healing properties of cocoa, avoid industrial cocoa and instead mix powder from raw cocoa with a little honey or stevia. You can also mix a smoothie with cocoa powder, bananas and water.

Raw cocoa versus industrial cocoa

Industrially produced cocoa powder consists largely of sugar. The valuable vital substances are only present in residues. Raw cocoa is much healthier.

Vitals in abundance

Cocoa powder contains more magnesium than any other plant food and more antioxidants than even blueberries. It offers about 25 percent more calcium than cow's milk and twice as much iron as spinach.

Raw cocoa contains around 300 chemical substances, many of which have a positive effect on health, particularly on the lymphatic system, hormone metabolism, the immune and nervous system and the cardiovascular system. It promotes blood circulation, concentration, brain metabolism and physical performance as well as fat metabolism. Raw cocoa counteracts the aging of the skin. It increases sensitivity to insulin and thus prevents diabetes.

Chocolate for heart attack?

The Cochrane Collaboration found in a meta study that the flavanoles in the cocoa plant lower blood pressure. However, EFSA believes that 200 milligrams of cocoa powder per day are necessary to have a significant impact. For that you would have to eat kilos of chocolate and thus gain kilos by kilos of body weight.

According to a study by the University of L'Aquila, the flavanols have a positive effect on the perception of older people. This is in line with other studies that also conclude that cocoa increases concentration. But eating chocolate is not enough.

Chocolate Magnesium

Magnesium is an important mineral in the body, and raw cocoa supplies us with it. The mineral supports the building of the bones, helps regulate the metabolism as well as the functioning of the brain. Headaches often result from a lack of magnesium. In total, the mineral participates in around 200 processes in the biochemistry of the organism. The body can absorb the magnesium contained in the cocoa powder very well.

Some authors suspect that a japp on chocolate is due to a magnesium deficiency. This is not proven. Our subconscious signals could also indicate hypoglycaemia. The high magnesium content means in practical terms: If you have worked hard physically or your muscles are otherwise tense, whether by hours at the desk or long car trips, some broken cocoa beans ensure that your muscles relax.


160 milligrams of calcium in 100 grams of raw cocoa are a lot. Calcium is needed to build and maintain teeth and bones. Without calcium, blood cannot clot, muscles cannot contract and nerve impulses are not transmitted.


7.3 milligrams of iron per 100 grams of raw cocoa are also remarkable. We need iron to produce red blood cells and to transport oxygen in the blood.


Antioxidants such as the flavonols in raw cocoa protect the cells from free radicals and prevent so many cell diseases, including cancer.

Unsaturated fatty acids

The organism needs simple unsaturated fatty acids so that the heart functions and to balance the cholesterol level. She delivers raw cocoa.


Amino acids in raw cocoa help ensure that messenger substances such as endorphins, dopamine and serotonin are sufficiently available. The tryptophan contained in the raw cocoa and the phenylethylamine provide "warm" sensations. To get a "lucky kick", you can chew crushed cocoa beans.


These polyphenols offer raw cocoa more than any other food. They lower blood pressure, possibly prevent Alzheimer's and help enormously in losing weight.


The main substance of raw cocoa is called theobromine. It is similar to caffeine and also an alkaloid, has a similar but softer effect. Theobromine stimulates by expanding the vessels and stimulating the heart. However, chewing cocoa beans in bulk can cause a racing heart, sweating, and headache. Theobromine relieves cough and lightens the mood. Similar to caffeine, theobromine stimulates the nerves by opening ion channels. With a small amount of the substance, it mainly affects sensory nerve cells, to a greater extent also motor brain cells.

Theobromine blocks receptors that regulate cell activity. Without this control, nobody protects the cell from overreaction, and so theobromine stimulates the cardiovascular system, metabolism and breathing. In this way, raw cocoa helps against fatigue and stimulates fat burning. Although raw cocoa is also high in calories, it can even be used to combat obesity.

Theobromine is superior to caffeine: it takes the body longer to process it. This makes it appear slower and secondly long-term. The same applies here as for caffeine in coffee. In order to best develop the positive effect, do not consume raw cocoa in large quantities all at once, but in small sips throughout the day.

Smoking with cocoa powder?

Raw cocoa releases anandamide, the body's own cannabinoids, and tryptophan, a pre-form of the "happiness hormone" serotonin. These substances counter depression, reduce stress and the wake-sleep rhythm and euphorize.

Why does raw cocoa make you happy?

Cocoa powder increases the level of serotonin in the brain, it increases the release of endorphins, and the messenger substance phenylethylamine in raw cocoa drives away bad moods.

Proven effects of raw cocoa

1) Cocoa beans activate the digestive enzymes and the digestive functions thanks to their high fiber content.

2) Raw cocoa slows down the development of cancer cells, especially in blood cancer, according to a study by the University of Georgetown.

3) Theobromine relieves cough by a third better than codeine, which is found in many cough suppressants.

4) Phenetylamine stimulates sexual desire.

5) Raw cocoa helps against premenstrual syndrome because it maintains serotonin levels during the critical days.

6.) Cocoa beans provide organic sulfur, which helps the body detoxify.

7.) Raw cocoa regularly and in small amounts lowers the level of the stress hormone cortisol, which can be responsible for a too high level of muscle tension and a too high level of blood sugar.

8.) Regular consumption of raw cocoa may prevent sunburn.

9.) According to Harvard University, raw cocoa improves memory and protects against Alzheimer's.

Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario

Raw cocoa is mainly cultivated in three forms: Trinitarion, Criollo and Forastero. Criollo, which is said to be derived from Mayan cocoa plants, is the most expensive variety; the plants are small and only grow under certain conditions. Forastero is the “standard cocoa”, including almost three quarters of the cocoa beans grown today. With the cocoa content in chocolate, you can be almost certain that it comes from this variety. The Trinitario hybrid variety comprises around 20 percent of raw cocoa in the trade.

The Kuna - cocoa drinker without high blood pressure

The kuna, natives that live on an island near Panama City, provided insights into the healing effects of raw cocoa. They are spared from high blood pressure as well as from the heart diseases common in industrialized countries. It is different when they move to Panama City. There they have the same heart and blood circulation problems as the other residents.

So does the big city make you sick? The American scientist Norman Hollenberg found out: It is not primarily the hectic pace of city life that is causing problems for the kuna, but the changed diet. In the villages from which they come, the kuna drink around four cups of raw cocoa with water every day. In Panama City, however, they use industrial cocoa powder. For this, the cocoa beans are first heated above 42 degrees and thus lose most of the vital substances, secondly, the majority of the instant powder consists of sugar and artificial flavors.

Hollenberg's thesis that raw cocoa (and not genetic peculiarities) is the cause of the "healthy hearts" of the Indians is also confirmed by a study from the Netherlands in 470 men over 15 years. All men were over 70 at the start of the study. The men with the highest cocoa consumption, i.e. with more than 2.3 grams of raw cocoa per day, had a much lower blood pressure than the men who drank the least cocoa. Other parameters such as smoking and obesity were similar in both groups. After 15 years, 43 percent of cocoa drinkers were still alive, but only 24 percent of those who did not consume cocoa.

A Greek study also showed that the “benefactor” is actually cocoa and not other substances. They examined people who either ate chocolate with 74 percent cocoa or who consumed sweets without cocoa. Only those who consumed chocolate with cocoa did their blood pressure drop.

Xocolatl - the chocolate of the Aztecs

The Aztecs drank a mixture of cocoa powder, chilli and water. They called this drink Xocolatl and appreciated it so much that cocoa beans served as currency. The Xocolatl had little to do with milk chocolate, which mainly consists of milk and sugar. To serve our health, we can also mix drinks from raw cocoa.

For example, we can put two peeled bananas, two tablespoons of cocoa powder and half a liter of water in a blender. Whisk through once, delicious and very healthy. A little honey, cinnamon or peanut butter, cardamom, chilli or vanilla go well with the seasoning.

Cocoa botanical

What we call cocoa are the powdered seeds of the cocoa tree that originally came from South America. Such a tree bears around 50 fruits, each of which contains around 50 seeds, the cocoa beans.

Workers harvest the fruits with the machete, then open them and take out the white beans. After a week of storage, which does not exceed 42 degrees for raw cocoa, the beans are fermented and then brown. Only now do they pour out the typical cocoa taste.

The fermented beans dry another two weeks in the sun. This way they become durable and the taste spreads. In the factories, machines clean the beans, then they are roasted. The beans either remain whole or are rolled, broken, peeled and refined. In the end, they are ground. The cocoa fat melts and the mass is de-oiled with alkali salts. The broken beans can only be pulverized under 30 percent fat.

Is chocolate healthy?

Cocoa is healthy, and chocolate contains cocoa. So chocolate is healthy and could be closed at first glance. Unfortunately, this is wrong. 100 grams of chocolate contain around 500 calories. If you want to incorporate the vital substances of cocoa with chocolate, you would get fat in a very short time, and the health balance would look bad due to the amounts of sugar and fat in the chocolate. If you eat chocolate to get cocoa, it's best to choose dark chocolate with at least 60 percent cocoa or even varieties with 80 percent and more. White chocolate contains no cocoa at all, only cocoa butter.

The food of the gods

Residues of theobromine indicate that the indigenous people of Central America were already in 1000 BC. BC used the cocoa plant in Puerto Escondido in Honduras. They probably made a kind of liqueur out of the pulp. The Mayans held cocoa in high esteem centuries after our era, as did the Aztecs in the period before the arrival of the Spaniards. In addition to cocoa drinks with chilli, they used cocoa butter in medicine and personal care. The subjects of the Aztec rulers paid part of their taxes with cocoa beans. The conqueror of the Aztec empire, Cortes, introduced the cocoa beans to Europe. But the bitter drink initially found no fans in the Old World. Only when the Europeans sweetened it with sugar did it spread.

Cocoa beans, sugar and slavery

The Spaniards grew the cocoa trees on plantations and exploited enslaved Africans to harvest the beans. After 1600, the region around Caraca's main acreage became Guayaquil in Ecuador. The Portuguese emulated the Spaniards and had cocoa produced in Belém and Bahia in Brazil. In 1900 Portugal became the largest cocoa grower in the world with the plantations in Sáo Tome and Príncipe. Slavery was prohibited, but workers continued to be treated like slaves. Even today, the conditions in cocoa production are extremely critical, and you should use fair trade products for raw cocoa.

From luxury goods to chocolate

Cocoa drinks in the early modern age buzzed around myths similar to coffee. Some doctors thought the drink was harmful, others saw it as a "love potion". A Madame de Sévigne in France wrote in 1671: "The Marquise de Coëtlogon drank so much cocoa when she was pregnant last year that she gave birth to a little boy who was black as the devil and died."

Cocoa pleasure was a luxury, and that only changed the industrial revolution. The chocolate factories were established in the 19th century. In 1848 the first cocoa mass with cocoa butter and sugar came on the market in England, the first chocolate. Rudolphe Lindt developed “conching” in Switzerland in 1879, which melted the cocoa mass in the mouth. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


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