What are Cocoa Flavanols?
There has been a great buzz building about the health benefits of Cocoa Flavanols. Companies are making claims about cocoa flavanols lowering cholesterol, helping your circulatory system, contributing to weight loss and improving memory. As a consumer, it’s not easy to sort through all of the information on the web, so we’d like to give you some basics about what Cocoa Flavanols are and how they can help you.
What are Flavanols?
Flavanols are the flavonoids (or phytochemicals) that naturally occur in cocoa beans. Flavonoids are important to our health due to their antioxidant activity. Antioxidants are substances that help prevent or delay some types of cell damage. Cell damage due to free radicals can destroy cells and/or increase risk for cancer. While this may sound complicated, think of it as a chain of protection.
- We eat flavonoid-rich foods.
- The flavonoids increase antioxidant activity.
- Antioxidants protect our cells and help keep us healthy.
What Foods Contain Flavonoids?
Fruits, vegetables, tea, and even red wine contain different levels of flavonoids. The highest levels of flavonoids occur in foods such as berries, tree fruits (apples, pears, plums, peaches), nuts (walnuts, pecans), beans, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, artichokes, celery, broccoli, and okra.
The less the food is cooked or processed, the better they are for you. For example, cooking spinach decreases the flavonoid levels by 50%.
How Do Flavonoids Help?
The list of health benefits potentially related flavonoids in lengthy, but the main benefits include:
- Helping To Protect Blood Vessels Form Rupture Or Leakage
- Enhancing The Body’s Use Of Vitamin C
- Protecting Cells From Oxygen Damage
- Preventing Excessive Inflammation
- Disrupting Bacteria Or Viruses
With more than 6,000 different types of flavonoids in different foods and beverages, you have a wide variety of ways to improve your health.
What Makes Cocoa Flavanols Beneficial?
It has long been proven that dark chocolate is heart friendly because it lowers the levels of fat stored in cells. Dark chocolate contains high levels of a flavanol, oligomeric procyanidin, which has been shown to increase glucose tolerance which leads to a lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
Other studies have shown that cocoa solids may:
- Lower Blood Pressure
- Lower Cholesterol
- Maintain Healthy Blood Vessels
- Help You Lose Weight
- Improve Brain Function
- Improve Memory
Does All Chocolate Have The Same Level Of Flavanols?
No. Flavanols are highest in cocoa products with high percentage of cocoa solids. Dark chocolate contains anywhere from 45% to 80% cocoa solids, however milk chocolate contains only 5% to 7% cocoa solids. Unsweetened cocoa powder, used in baking and hot cocoa, contains 88% to 96% cocoa solids. The more pure and raw the cocoa bean, the higher the flavanol content.
Cocoa flavanols have proven health benefits due to their antioxidant properties. The key thing to remember is that the higher the level of cocoa solids, the higher the level of flavonoids. Chocolate isn’t just good for your tastebuds, it’s good for your body.