8 Proven Health Benefits Of Cacao

8 cacao benefits that will make you want to eat more

Let's talk about cacao, the superstar of superfoods! This little bean has been around for centuries, and it's not just a tasty treat - it's been used for medicinal and spiritual purposes too! And thanks to science, we're finally figuring out why this little gem is so amazing.

With over 300 nutrients and compounds, cacao is like a nutritional goldmine. It's so complex that it's considered one of the most intricate foods on the planet. But what makes cacao stand out is its crown jewel - theobromine. This gentle, long-lasting stimulant can give you energy like caffeine without making you feel like a jittery mess later in the day.

But wait, there's more! Cacao is also packed with essential vitamins and minerals and produces mood-boosting bioactive compounds like dopamine, serotonin, anandamide (also known as the "bliss molecule"), and P.E.A. (which is sometimes called the "love drug" because it's an antidepressant). In fact, cacao's euphoric effects were so apparent when it was first introduced to Europe in the 1500s that the Church temporarily banned it!

So if you're looking for a tasty and healthy way to give yourself a boost, cacao might just be your new best friend. With its rich and diverse nutritional profile, it's no wonder that people all over the world are embracing pure, whole bean cacao.

“Cacao is probably the best kept secret in the entire history of food.”

- David “Avocado” Wolfe.

1. Highest Antioxidant Source

Ceremonial cacao is one of the highest sources of antioxidants, with an ORAC score of 95,000 - that's 40 times more than blueberries! Antioxidants boost our immune system by preventing cell damage by free radicals. This helps protect against heart disease, increase beneficial gut microbes, and prevent us from catching infectious diseases. Cacao may even be used as a home remedy for the common cold, by clearing our airways and reducing inflammation in our lungs.

2. It can improve your mood

Does eating chocolate make you happy? Because, same. However, there’s actually a science-backed reason why.

Cacao stimulates the brain to release neurotransmitters, which can trigger emotions like euphoria. When you eat cacao, the body produces a natural, adrenal-related chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA). It usually occurs when you feel excited or in love, causing your pulse to speed up. PEA also allows for more focus and awareness.

Cacao also contains anandamide, which is sanskrit for divine joy. Also known as the “bliss molecule,” it binds to cannabinoid receptors and mimics the effects of THC — the psychoactive molecule in cannabis. In addition to improving your mood, research shows anandamide can inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells.

Anandamine is a potent antidepressant and pain moderator. The only two places it occurs naturally are the human brain and cacao.

3. It can prevent heart disease

Do you love chocolate? It will love you back — or at least your heart.

Multiple observational studies support that dark chocolate (which contains less sugar and no dairy products) can prevent heart disease:

A 2006 study that followed 470 men over a 15 year period found that cocoa reduced the risk of death from heart disease by 50%.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family Heart Study found eating dark chocolate at least times per week lowered the risk of heart disease by 57%.

A 2011 study published in “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” saw a 32% reduction of calcified plaque in the arteries when chocolate was consumed two or more times per week.


One of the many ways chocolate can protect the heart is by inhibiting the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (aka the “bad” cholesterol). When LDL oxidizes, it sticks to the walls of arteries, which increases the risk of stroke or heart attack.


The polyphenols (the protective chemicals found in plant foods) have an aspirin-like effect and prevents the clumping of blood platelets. This a good thing since the clumping of platelets can lead to atherosclerosis or the hardening and narrowing of the arteries due to a buildup of fat and cholesterol.




4. It can lower blood pressure

According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure is a “silent killer” because there are no obvious symptoms that indicate anything is wrong. In fact, most people don’t even know they have high blood pressure.


High blood pressure can lead to a variety of health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and more.


So how can chocolate help prevent high blood pressure? The flavonols in dark chocolate can stimulate the lining of the arteries, known as the endothelium, to produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide signals the arteries to relax, which promotes normal blood pressure.


Research also shows that consuming a small amount of dark chocolate every day can lower blood pressure in those with mild hypertension.


While chocolate may help lower your risk of high blood pressure, following a heart healthy diet (especially rich in plants!) can have a greater impact.




5. It's good for your brain

Have chocolate on the brain? That may not be such a bad thing. Chocolate is often listed as one of the top foods for brain health — and there’s plenty of research to back that up.


The flavanols in dark chocolate have been shown to relax the arteries and increase the flow of oxygen to the brain.


A 2012 study published in “Hypertension” showed that the regular consumption of cocoa flavanols might be effective in improving cognitive function in elderly people with mild cognitive impairment.


In addition to its brain-boosting benefits, a 2017 meta-analysis also found consuming up to 3 servings of chocolate a week can lower the risk of stroke.


6. It can have anti-diabetic effects

For those who have type 2 diabetes, consuming dark chocolate may be beneficial.


Researchers at the Institute of Food Science and Technology and Nutrition found cocoa flavanols can slow down carbohydrate digestion and absorption in the gut, improve insulin secretion, reduce inflammation and stimulate the uptake of sugar out of the blood into the muscle. However, they do warn against consuming chocolate that is high in sugar.


The same 2012 study in “Hypertension” that showed positive effects of chocolate on the brain, also found cocoa flavanols reduced insulin resistance.

7. It may boost stem cells

Stem cells are our bodys regenerative cells. The downside is as we age our stem cells become less effective, there’s less of them and those we have don’t work very well. Stem cells are important for every factor of aging and disease. As you guessed, cacao has been shown to boost our stem cells. At the University of California, San Francisco, researchers found that participants who received a chocolate drink made with cocoa twice a day for thirty days had twice as many stem cells in their circulation as their control group

8. It Helps You Chill Out

Unlike caffeine, theobromine is not a nervous system stimulant, which may explain why it doesn't cause the same jittery feeling. Instead, theobromine is a cardiac stimulant, muscle relaxant, and a vasodilator. Vasodilators increase blood flow and reduce blood pressure. Beta-blockers, used to treat anxiety, are vasodilators.