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02/08/2009

Discover the health powers of cocoa !

(NaturalNews) A cup of hot cocoa may not do much to cool you down from the summer swelter, but it may cool down your blood pressure. According to a new report filed in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, hypertensive rats fed a moderate dose of powdered chocolate dropped their systolic blood pressure rates by an average of 50 mmHg after a single dose. The cocoa content was 70 percent.

The study`s specimens were mice, some with normal blood pressure, others with high blood pressure. The rats were grouped in a fashion so that rats with normal blood pressure and high blood pressure received one of a range of cocoa doses (as low as 50 milligrams to as much as 600 milligrams of cocoa powder).

While the researchers did not observe any noticeable differences in blood pressure readings among the rats with normal blood pressure, the hypertensive rats that received 300 milligrams of cocoa powder had a systolic blood pressure reading that dropped 60 mmHg four hours after the dose.

Writing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, lead researcher Dr. Amaiya Aleixandre said, "The results obtained suggest that [hot cocoa] could be used as a functional food ingredient with potential therapeutic benefit in the treatment and prevention of hypertension." Dr. Aleixandre and her colleagues hail from Spain`s Universidad Complutense in Madrid.

While all chocolate contains flavonoids - the active ingredient in chocolate that helps lower blood pressure, among other healthful functions - the chocolate tested in this study is not like the kinds traditionally found on supermarket shelves. Unlike those, the cocoa tested in this study was dark chocolate, which has a much higher flavonoid yield than milk chocolate (the chocolate used had approximately 139 milligrams of flavonoids per gram of cocoa powder).

Contrary to popular belief, the average cup of hot cocoa contains more flavonoids than other highly concentrated antioxidant drinks, like red wine and green tea. Experts suggest the average person should get about 6.7 grams of chocolate in their diet per day, which amounts to about the size of a fun-size candy bar. Any more than that and the negatives begin to outweigh the positives.

But again, all cocoas and chocolates are not built the same. There`s a world of difference between raw cocoa and processed cocoa, the kind typically found in most candy bars and hot cocoa mixes.

For the most health benefit, look for all-natural sources of cocoa. Pay special attention to a product`s ingredients, specifically the percentage of pure cocoa powder used. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the better it is, and the higher it is in overall flavonoid content. Further, make sure that the cocoa is unprocessed. Any truly natural cocoa product should mention that in their ingredients.

Sources:

http://www.nutraingredients.com/Res...
http://www.ap-foodtechnology.com/sm...
http://www.sciencedaily.com/release...

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