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Cocoa beans: health benefits, properties, nutrition and recipes

Cocoa beans have been used for centuries as both an ingredient in cookery and a medicinal tonic. This article explores the health benefits of cocoa, its nutritional value, and some of the best recipes to try.

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Cocoa is a wonderful and everyone’s favorite drink. It was first prepared several thousand years ago and still has not lost its popularity.

Where cocoa beans grow and what they look like

The chocolate tree, on which the cocoa bean grows, was discovered in ancient times by the people of Peru. People were so fascinated by the magical taste of the fruit that they called it “theobroma. It means “food of the gods.

The benefits and harms of cocoa beans

The chocolate tree reaches a height of 20 meters. The truth is that today the average height is about 8 meters. This is the height that experts have deemed optimal for care and fruitfulness.

The cacao tree is a beautiful evergreen plant with large, dense and oblong leaves up to 15 centimeters in size. The flower of the chocolate tree, on the other hand, is small – no more than 1.5 centimeters. It has a whimsical shape and bright orange or purple color, somewhat reminiscent of orchids or physalis. Curiously enough, these flowers do not smell like chocolate at all. They have a sweet and spicy aroma similar to freshly baked gingerbread.

The cacao bean is large, up to 35 cm long and 13 cm wide. The bean is shaped like a lemon or elongated pumpkin. Each bean contains about 70 seeds, up to 2 centimeters each, which are used in a variety of dishes and spices.

Although the beautiful fruit of the chocolate tree was first tasted by the Peruvians, the plant is generally considered to be native to the forests of Central America. It is on this continent that the climate is optimal for the growth of the cocoa bean. In addition to these two countries, historically cocoa trees grew in Spain, Australia, Switzerland, India and some countries in Africa. They are somewhat different in appearance and taste.

Today, the major suppliers of cocoa to the market are Colombia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Ghana, and Brazil.

Types

  • Forastero (Spanish for “alien”) is the most common variety of cocoa bean on the consumer market. It is characterized by high yields and is tolerant of climatic and weather changes, so it can grow in almost any area. Forastero beans have a dark mustard color, are very dense and have no pronounced aroma. They need a long and thorough fermentation.
  • Criollo (Spanish for “native”) is a noble and expensive cocoa variety. The yield of trees of this species is almost one and a half times lower than that of the Forastero variety. The quality of the beans is greatly influenced by climate and temperature. For example, too much heat and too little moisture causes the beans to become bitter, while too little moisture causes the beans to become runny and oily. A sharp cold can kill the tree once and for all. The color of Criollo fruits is dark red, brownish. Have a strong nutty-chocolate flavor. It grows mainly in Central America and Indonesia.
  • Amelonado is a rare species of cacao native to Africa. It is very similar to Criollo in taste and appearance. Its fruits are slightly smaller than those of the other varieties. The color of the bean is orange-red and it has a distinct spicy flavor. The peculiarity of this variety is that it can be stored for quite a long time without losing its properties.

What is the difference between cocoa beans and coffee beans

Coffee and cocoa are indeed very similar drinks. Both have invigorating properties due to the chemical substance caffeine in them. It dilates blood vessels and raises blood pressure, thereby increasing blood flow to the tissues and the brain. However, cocoa affects the body more gently, because in addition to caffeine it contains theobromine, a substance with similar properties. Therefore, even people with neurological and cardiovascular diseases can afford to enjoy cocoa.

Coffee and cocoa are both similar in taste, both are dark brown colored beverages. Their composition, however, is quite different. Coffee is ground coffee beans, while cacao is ground cocoa beans. They are the fruits of evergreen plants, often even growing in the same area.

Unlike coffee beans, cocoa beans contain a fair amount of fat, which makes them more caloric and nutritious. Also, the fruit of the chocolate tree is high in vitamins A, E, and folic acid.

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Compared to cacao fruit, coffee beans are small and rarely reach more than 2 centimeters in length. A coffee bean, like a cherry, is encased in a berry. They do not grow singly, but in bunches of 30-50 and are of different colors, from burgundy-brown to light green.

Composition and calories

Cocoa beans are a very tasty healthy product. They contain 530 kcal – a figure so high mainly because of the oil content of the cocoa beans. As much as 53 grams per 100 grams of beans! However, do not worry about the figure – it is mostly unsaturated fatty acids, which have antioxidant and rejuvenating effect.

By the way, ground cocoa, which is used to make drinks, has a much lower nutritional value due to skimming during fermentation.

The cocoa bean has a high amount of protein, about 13 g per 100 g, which is very important for health-conscious people. The carbohydrates in the beans are 10 g per 100 g, but most of them are naturally occurring vitamins and sugars, which nourish tissues but do not contribute to weight gain.

Cocoa beans contain many vitamins. First of all, these are A and E, which promote cell regeneration and normalize the condition of blood vessels. In large quantities included in the composition of the fruit of the chocolate tree and vitamin K, which regulates blood clotting, hematopoiesis and metabolism. Folic acid contained in cocoa normalizes the nervous system and improves immunity.

Of the micronutrients, cocoa beans contain phosphorus and calcium, which improve bone and dental health. In ancient times, people noticed this and used ground cocoa as tooth powder. The product also contains iron, zinc and magnesium, which improve the contraction of blood vessels and the overall condition of the body’s circulatory system. And selenium and copper contribute to fast and trouble-free conception and are generally beneficial to the female reproductive system.

What are the benefits of cocoa beans

For Women

Every woman wants to be beautiful and charming. It is important to have beautiful and soft skin. Cocoa butter, extracted from beans, stimulates cell regeneration and moisturizes the skin. It can easily replace hand and face cream. And, of course, it is hypoallergenic and environmentally friendly.

What are the benefits of cocoa beans

Cocoa in the morning promotes a healthy complexion and tans more evenly and quickly. Of course, don’t overdo it, as it can increase your blood pressure.

By the way, as a rule, cocoa is consumed together with milk and sugar. This is not quite right. After all, the beans already contain quite a lot of carbohydrates and fats. Traditionally this drink is consumed with hot peppers and brewed with hot water. But if you can’t refuse the usual taste, it is better to replace cow’s milk with oat milk or almond milk, and sugar with stevia or honey.

For Men

Zinc, contained in the fruit of the chocolate tree, has a positive effect on the male sexual system. It stimulates the production of the hormone testosterone, thereby increasing potency and sperm vitality. Fathers-to-be are advised to consume one cup of cocoa daily for a successful conception.

Cocoa will also help professional athletes. It is high in protein and promotes the growth of muscle tissue, while the caffeine will give you strength. Unlike coffee, cocoa does not increase your heart rate, and the naturally occurring carbohydrates in the drink will give you strength for your workout.

In pregnancy

There is a well-known prejudice that pregnant women should not drink cocoa. However, this is not entirely true. Cocoa is no more harmful to the mother than black tea. The natural fruit of the chocolate tree contributes to the normal formation of the fetal neural tube, as well as the heart and internal organs. The invigorating drink also contains magnesium – a trace element that normalizes the tone of the uterus and prevents miscarriage. And most importantly, cocoa is a wonderful way to lift the spirits of a pregnant woman, and a happy mother is the main condition for the health of the baby!

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Of course, you have to know the limits to everything. It is not recommended to drink more than one cup of cocoa a day. The drink is also contraindicated for expectant mothers with edema and high blood pressure.

When breastfeeding

Cocoa is quite allergenic, so it should not be consumed for the first 4-6 weeks after your baby is born. After that, you can try to drink half a cup of the drink and watch your baby’s reaction throughout the day. If everything is okay, the young mother is allowed to drink 1-2 cups of cocoa a day. It is desirable to do it in the morning before 12 o’clock in the afternoon, so that the invigorating components of cocoa do not interfere with the baby’s sleep. If the baby gets a rash or disturbed stool, it is better to exclude the drink for at least 1 month.

In order not to cause allergies in the child, the main thing is to drink natural, not instant cocoa. The fact is that during grinding there are often various impurities that negatively affect the body. Sometimes they are the cause of allergic reactions in humans.

For children

Cocoa is an important product for baby food. It is not only healthy, but also very tasty. Chocolate, cocoa, chocolate cakes and muffins are all things that children eat with great pleasure.

The fruit of the chocolate tree contains substances that help the brain develop. It has been observed that children who drink cocoa in the morning do better in school and make better grades.

One cup of natural cocoa may be consumed from the age of 2 to 3 years old. It is not advisable to give it to a child with a lot of sugar before the age of 7. You should try to buy chocolate with at least 50% cocoa, and better yet – make it yourself at home.

For weight loss

For the girl who wants to lose weight, cocoa is the number one product. First, it stimulates the metabolism and thereby increases the burning of calories, second, it gives strength for exercise and improves the cardiovascular system, and third, it reduces appetite and discourages cravings for fat and sweets. When properly consumed with the help of cocoa beans, you can lose up to 5 kilograms in a month.

Cocoa-based diet: 100 grams of sugar-free homemade chocolate (with stevia or other sweetener), 1 apple, 2 cups of cocoa with oat milk, unlimited water are allowed per day. Adhere to this dietary regime can be up to 5 days. You can lose up to 8 kilograms during this period of time.

By the way, cocoa butter helps to eliminate cellulite. To do this, it is necessary to apply it to the problem areas with massaging movements every evening.

Cocoa bean oil: properties and application

Cocoa bean oil is one of the most important products in the beauty industry and folk medicine. Due to its high content of vitamins A, E and K, as well as fatty acids, it has miraculous properties in skin regeneration. Regular use of this product promotes healing of scars, scars, burns, acne marks.

Cocoa bean oil

In addition, cocoa bean oil helps to soften corns, calluses and hard formations on the skin – heels will be like a baby after only 5 applications of the miracle product. It is advisable to apply it at night and wear cotton socks over it.

The problem of baldness today is faced by both women and men. Hair loss has a terrible effect on a person’s appearance and self-esteem. Cocoa butter can beat hair loss and improve the density of the hair. It is necessary to apply it every 2-3 days at night, and in the morning wash it off with shampoo. This product is suitable for all hair types.

To avoid tearing during childbirth, many gynecologists recommend lubricating the perineum with cocoa butter from the 32nd week of pregnancy. This remedy is absolutely safe for both the mother and the unborn child.

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The use of cocoa bean husks

Cocoa bean husks, or cocoa hulls, are a byproduct left over from the processing of the fruit of the chocolate tree. However, it also has a fairly wide range of uses and is of great benefit to people.

  • An excellent compost and fertilizer. Cocoa hulls are widely used in agriculture. It is used to cover plants in order to retain moisture in the soil and improve soil properties, as well as to protect fruits from pests and weeds. It is used to grow strawberries, yams, and various shrubs.
  • Animal bedding. Cocoa velva is used in the aviaries of akhatin snails, turtles, spiders, hamsters and some other animals. It perfectly absorbs odor and moisture, is hypoallergenic and inexpensive.
  • Filler for pillows and mattresses. This use of husks is not very common, but still has a place. Bedding filled with cocoa hulls has orthopedic properties, smells good and is environmentally friendly. The disadvantage of such use is that there is a lot of dust from the cocoa husk, so you need to use quality material for the products. The second disadvantage can be called short-lived – unlike artificial fillers, cocoa husk will not last more than five years.

How to peel cocoa beans from the husks

In the industry, the fruit of the chocolate tree is peeled with a special machine. To clean the beans at home, soak them in warm water and baking soda for several hours. After the water procedures, the husks will easily come off the beans and the product can be consumed as intended.

The second way to clean the cacao fruit is to roast it. It is necessary to place the beans in the oven for 40 minutes at maximum temperature. After that, the husks will peel off quite easily.

Cocoa beans in folk medicine

Cocoa beans in folk medicine
  • Candles for thrush. It is necessary to melt a glass of cocoa butter on a water bath, add to it 15 drops of essential oil of tea tree and 5 drops of cedar oil, mix, take off the fire. Add half a glass of broth of onion husks, stir again, pour it into the blisters of tablets and place in the freezer. Take out after two hours, then store in the refrigerator. Use vaginally before going to bed with 1-2 suppositories a day. The effect of use will appear on the 3rd-4th day.
  • Mix one tablespoon of grated cocoa beans and one tablespoon of oak bark. Boil with boiling water. Take 1 cup in the morning for low blood pressure, vascular dystonia and headaches.
  • 1 tablespoon of tea rose petals in a glass of hot water. Wait 15 minutes, add 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 tablespoon of ground cocoa. Take during the day to stimulate ovulation from 1 to 15 days of the cycle. After stopping the reception. If conception did not occur, use again from the first day of menstruation.
  • Mix 1 tablespoon of cocoa with 1 teaspoon of ginseng root and 3 juniper berries. Boil 500 ml of boiling water. Take 2 cups in the morning and evening to treat male infertility, urolithiasis and prostatitis.
  • Mix half a cup of cocoa powder with the same amount of sea salt, add two tablespoons of melted cocoa butter and essential oil as desired. The mixture should be thoroughly mixed. The resulting scrub should be rubbed into problem areas with cellulite, horny skin and orange peel for 10 minutes. After the procedure rinse with warm water.
  • Mix half a cup of grated horseradish with a cup of cocoa and a tablespoon of honey. For the treatment of muscle pain and osteochondrosis, apply the mixture to the sore spot, covering it with a bag or food film for 20-30 minutes. This mixture improves blood circulation and also helps to remove harmful salts from the joints.
  • Mix a tablespoon of mustard, cocoa powder and cocoa butter. Rub into hair roots for baldness and stunted hair growth.
  • Grated cocoa beans and rosehip pour cold water. Boil for 15 minutes after boiling over low heat. Use as a natural immunomodulator for the treatment and prevention of colds and infectious diseases, as well as headaches.
  • Mix cocoa powder with melted cocoa butter in equal proportion. Rub on vitiligo spots to normalize metabolic processes in the skin.
  • Pour half a cup of grated cocoa beans with half a liter of vodka. Infuse in a dark place for a week, then strain. Use to fight skin inflammations or as a tonic for oily skin.
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Harms and contraindications

Cocoa very often comes from undeveloped countries, where it is harvested and made under unsanitary conditions. To be sure of the quality of the product, it is better to buy whole cocoa beans rather than powder. It is advisable to soak them in water and baking soda before using. This will definitely wash away all the dirt and also help to clean the fruit.

Cocoa beans are contraindicated if you are allergic to the product, hypertension in the acute stage, mental illness (paranoia and schizophrenia), severe infections (diphtheria, typhoid, etc.), parasites in the gastrointestinal tract, hyper- and hypothyroidism, diabetes, and children under the age of 2.

How to choose and store cocoa beans

The choice of the “right” cocoa beans is very important, because the taste and quality of future dishes depends on it. It is necessary to pay attention to such nuances:

How to choose and store cocoa beans
  • Smell. The chocolate tree fruit smells sweet, spicy, nutty, or chocolatey. If you smell a bitter odor of mushrooms or mold, you should not buy the beans.
  • Peel. It should be dry, of the same color, without obvious inclusions.
  • Country of origin. If there is a choice, it is better to prefer beans from Indonesia or Malaysia.

Store the cocoa beans in a dry and dark place at a temperature of no more than 25 degrees. It is advisable to wrap them in a clean cotton cloth. It is best to use the fruit of the chocolate tree within a month after purchase.

How to use cocoa beans

You can eat cocoa beans in the form of chocolate, as a drink, or as part of a variety of other dishes.

Can you eat them raw

The fruit of the chocolate tree can be eaten raw, but no more than 100 g per day, so as not to cause stomach pain. Without cooking they are bitter and too tough. Some people break off a piece of raw beans and mash them up like candy. This helps conquer hunger and headaches.

What You Can Make From Cocoa Beans: Recipes

Chocolate

Place the grated cocoa beans and cocoa butter in a 6:1 ratio in a prepared heat-resistant glass container. Heat in a water bath until dissolved. Add salt, sugar, stevia, honey, berries, nuts, cinnamon, ginger and other spices to taste. Remove from heat and pour into molds. Place in the refrigerator for a few hours.

Beverage

Recipe 1. Melt 2 tablespoons of grated cocoa beans in a water bath, add 2 cups of milk, stir and remove from the fire. Beat 1 egg yolk with sugar and add to the drink.

Recipe 2. Put 1 tablespoon of grated cocoa and 1 teaspoon of coffee in a turkey. Boil for 10 minutes as usual, serve with cream and cinnamon.

Recipe 3. Put 1 tablespoon grated cocoa, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 2 tablespoons sugar in a clay pot for baking, and pour water to half the capacity. Place in the preheated oven for an hour, then remove, quickly pour the cream into the pot and place for another 15 minutes.

Marinade

Mix half a cup of cocoa, a tablespoon of mustard, a pinch of red pepper, a tablespoon of honey and a glass of orange juice. Put chicken or pork meat in the mixture for two to three hours. Then drain the liquid, rub with salt and wait another 40 minutes. Meat in this marinade is great for roasting and baking.

Pancakes

Beat 1 cup flour, half cup cocoa powder, a tablespoon sugar, 2 eggs and a cup water with a mixer. Add the baking soda on the tip of a knife and put out with lemon juice. Let the dough stand for half an hour, fry the pancakes in oil.

Meat Gravy

Fry onions, carrots, bell peppers until soft. Add a cup of meat broth, half a cup of grated cocoa beans. Reduce heat to low, stirring constantly. Taste and season with salt, black and red pepper, and any remaining seasonings. Serve with beef, chicken or turkey.

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Salad

Prepare homemade sugar-free chocolate, cut into cubes. Add broccoli, smoked chicken breast, bell peppers, lettuce, olives. Dress with mayonnaise or sesame sauce.

Helpful dessert.

Melt grated cocoa beans in a water bath, add stevia and a cup of cream. Beat with a mixer until stiff and frothy. Add the soaked agar-agar. Whisk again. Place in fridge for an hour. This cake will be low calorie and very tasty.

How to roast cocoa beans

It is advisable to roast the chocolate tree fruit before making cocoa powder and drinks. There are several ways to do this:

  • Place whole cocoa beans or pieces of fruit on a baking tray sprinkled with salt, place in an oven preheated to 140 degrees. Cook for 30 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 100 degrees and hold for another half hour. Throughout the roasting process, stir every 10 minutes.
  • Put the chocolate tree fruit in the dehydrator, turn the temperature to maximum and leave for 5-6 hours. The cocoa beans remain healthier when processed in this way.

Interesting facts about cocoa

Interesting facts about cocoa
  • In ancient Mexico, the Aztecs used cocoa beans instead of money. They greatly valued the product and considered it a gift from the gods. One slave was worth 100 fruits, a turkey was worth 10.
  • In Catholic Europe, cocoa was for a long time taboo. The priesthood of the time considered the drink demonic and condemned its use on a par with heresy and witchcraft. People believed that an ordinary drink could ruin the skin of babies, give rise to terrible diseases and make a person go into the devil’s web. Cocoa was used only secretly, and in Spain the drink was served only to the table of the king and the most noble dignitaries. The ban was lifted by the Pope, who accidentally tasted it. He found it unpalatable and saw nothing wrong with its use.
  • Cocoa tastes better when served in a thick-walled clay cup.
  • The product does not cause yellowing of the teeth. On the contrary, this drink strengthens enamel due to the calcium and phosphorus it contains. In the past, grated cocoa was used instead of toothpaste.
  • Cocoa can help you fall in love. This drink causes the release of serotonin and endorphin, the hormones responsible for happiness. They induce a feeling of elation and serenity and help you see the world with different eyes.
  • The movie “Chocolate” with Johnny Depp tells the legend of the magical and mystical properties of cocoa, and helps all the characters find their destiny and happiness.
  • The Mayan tribes used chocolate for ritual ceremonies. When a nobleman was buried, a jar of cocoa was placed next to the deceased.
  • Christopher Columbus discovered cocoa beans during his travels, but did not appreciate them. The scholar and discoverer mistook the fruit of the chocolate tree for spoiled almonds and saw no point in bringing them home.
  • The word xocolatl (chocolate) means “bitter water” in Mayan. Indeed, the traditional drink of this tribe was bitter, for they served it with chili peppers and salt.
  • Cocoa beans were first brought to Europe by the Spanish, collecting them as a tax from their colonies. At first they were not popular and only by the end of the 18th century did they become widely consumed.
Photo of cacao beans.
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