Flavonoids are plants that have antioxidant effects on the body. Flavonoids help lower the risk for heart disease, cancer, and bad cholesterol because they modify how your body reacts to free radicals. Flavonol-rich cocoa cardiovascular effects are associated with the elevation of nitric oxide that continuously circulates through your body. This is beneficial because it enhances vasodilatation, thus enhancing blood circulation through the heart and the rest of the body. In 2006, a study indicated that pure cocoa appears to reduce blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health better than green tea or red wine. “The results of this study provide direct proof that epicatechin is, at least in part, responsible for the beneficial vascular effects that are observed after consumption of certain flavonol-rich cocoas,” claims Hagen Scroeter, co-author of the study's paper.
Norman Hollenberg, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, found that a compound in cocoa called epicatechin contains such huge striking health benefits that it may even challenge penicillin and anesthesia. Hollenberg has been studying cocoa for years and has found that strokes, heart failure, cancer, and diabetes are all lowered by 10% for people that incorporate pure cocoa into their diet. These findings support why the professor thinks that epicatechin should be considered a vitamin.
Researchers at Harvard found that consumption of cocoa actually decreased blood pressure and improved cholesterol levels, as well as blood vessel health. Another major discovery in this 2011 study was that diabetics who added pure flavonoid-rich cocoa to their care plans had more regular blood sugar levels and significantly lower insulin resistance than those who did not add cocoas to their diets.
Cocoa comes from a small tropical tree native to Central and South America called Theobroma (Greek for "foods of the gods") cacao. Simply called "cacao" (pronounced ka-KOW).The cacao tree can produce over 2000 pods a year. These pods grow straight out of the tree trunk. Inside the pods are a sticky white pulp. The pulp is both sweet and tart and can be eaten or used to make drinks, but it is the seeds, called "beans" that make cocoa.
After the pods are harvested by hand with a machete, they are placed in earthen pits or wooden bins and covered with banana leaves and left to ferment. The fermentation process can take a few days or a week depending on the quality of the beans. Once the fermentation is complete, the beans are dried in the sun and then sent to a factory to be ground and made into chocolate.
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