Raw organic Cacao beans are packed with antioxidants. Raw Cacao contains some of the highest levels of antioxidants found in any food. Antioxidant levels are measured using the ORAC scale (Oxygen radical absorbance capacity, see diagram above) Antioxidants, including phenolic phyochemicals like those found in cacao beans, can be beneficial in preventing cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease and macular degeneration. Antioxidants can also help the body neutralize free radicals, which are either toxic byproducts of natural cell metabolism or introduced into the body by exposure to external pollutants like pesticides or cigarette smoke.
Free radicals can increase the amount of low density lipoprotein (the bad cholesterol) in the blood. Cacao butter (image left) contains the unsaturated fats olic acid and saturated fats stearic and palmitic acids. Whilst saturated fats can raise cholesterol levels, stearic acid appears to have a neutral effect on cholesterol levels and palmitic acid doesn't have a significant effect in chocolate, possibly due to the cholesterol lowering properties of the unsaturated fat, olic acid. Raw Cacao butter also contains Sitosterol (a plant sterol) a substance that reduces LDL cholesterol
Raw Cacao promotes the release of neurotransmitters, which promote a positive brain chemistry, bodily rejuvenation and release 'feel good' hormones. Raw Cacao raises levels of Seratonin, a neurotransmitter that acts as a natural anti-depressant. It also stimulates the secretion of endorphines, which produce a pleasurable sensation - and phenylethylamine, which is a mild mood booster. Raw Cacao also releases anandamide which promotes feelings of elation and can help to boost mood.
Blood pressure and Cadiovascular health
Raw cacao contains high levels of Magnesium (a common deficiency in western diets) Magnesium, as well as aiding balanced brain chemistry, can help to relax muscles including the heart and cardiovascular system, which in turn can help to regulate blood pressure. A study conducted at the University of L'Aquila in Italy, evaluated the effects of dark chocolate on 20 men with hypertension (high blood pressure) and found that the systolic blood pressure, the top number of a blood pressure reading, which measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart ventricles contract, dropped by an average of 11.9 mm when the subjects consumed dark chocolate with high levels of cacao. Diastolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats, dropped an average of 8.5mm when consuming dark chocolate with high levels of cacao.