Antidepressant and Antioxidant Uses of Cocoa Powder Questioned By Expert

Jan 31, 2017

The general public all over the world like products derived from cocoa and for good reason too. The impression is that cocoa products do provide antioxidant and antidepressant benefits. What is not clear is whether this is true. Some scientists dispute this claim.

Most people enjoy a chocolate drink, a bar of chocolate, cocoa powder recipes and other cocoa related products. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, the love for cacao and cocoa-related products is to be encouraged.

This is bolstered by the news that cacao and cocoa powder have antioxidant properties. What does that mean?

It means cacao and cocoa have the potential to improve health in a variety of ways including keeping blood vessels on the healthy side. But there’s a cacao vs cocoa difference though.

Preventive cardiologist Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told MedicineNet “These substances (antioxidants) help keep the arteries healthy and are protective against cardiovascular disease. When looking for a sweet snack, a square of dark chocolate might, in fact, be your healthiest choice!"

The depth of processing the cacao however does affect the flavonol content of the cocoa product, hence dark chocolate is to be preferred to other chocolates.

This is because cacao powder benefits from the antioxidants in 85% dark chocolate are relatively intact. Certainly, white chocolate has no cardiovascular benefits.

So, consumption of white chocolate does provide a tasty treat but will not provide any benefit for the heart, blood vessels or the brain neurotransmitters.

This is in contrast to dark chocolate which has a good amount of flavonols. Researchers have compared unadulterated fruit juices of acai berry, cranberry, pomegranate and blueberry versus 40 grams of dark chocolate versus cocoa powder.

40 grams of dark chocolate and cocoa powder is the equivalent of 1.4 ounces of the product. The dark chocolate used for the study had about 62% of cacao in it. The researchers compared the 40 grams of the dark chocolate and the cocoa powder versus 1 cup of the unadulterated fruit juices.

The result of the research was that the content of flavonols in the dark chocolate was superior compared to the juices of acai berry, blueberry and cranberry. Only the pomegranate juice had comparable levels of antioxidants to the dark chocolate at 1000 milligrams per serving.

When comparisons were made at 500 milligram per serving, the dark chocolate came out on top. This was followed by the cocoa and the pomegranate juice. The other fruit juices came a distant third.

What must be pointed out is that the cacao in the dark chocolate used in the study was natural and not alkalized.

This is an important point because lots of the commercially available cocoa products on the market are adulterated to modify their taste. Modifying the taste makes the products more acceptable to the unsuspecting public. The result is that alkalized cocoa products contain few to no flavonols. Not all chocolate and cocoa products are processed the same.

This means the healthy cocoa powder antioxidant and antidepressant benefits may not be realized by the user in a lot of cases. More information on the difference between cacao and cocoa available at:

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