Why take cocoa flavanols?
Flavanols are naturally occurring plant-based nutrients that have antioxidant properties. They are found in many common foods, including tea and various fruits, but cocoa contains a unique blend that is known to have a positive effect on blood circulation.
Cocoa flavanols are found in the seeds of the tree Theobroma Cacao, which is native to the Central America.
The cocoa tree probably originates in the rainforests around the Amazon and Orinoco rivers, and has been cultivated for use by humans for nearly 4,000 years. Its seeds were dried and then used to create drinking chocolate, which was often reserved for royalty and the priesthood. It was consumed as a medicine and played a role in religious ceremonies among the Olmecs, Toltecs and Maya. The Aztecs believed that the god of the morning star, Quetzalcoatl, had stolen the cocoa tree from his brother and presented it to humans as a great gift.
First transported to Europe in the 16th century, chocolate was initially used as a medicine but quickly became a popular beverage. The industrial revolution brought new technologies for the mass production of chocolate.
There has been much focus on the health benefits of cocoa flavanols since the year 2000. Numerous studies have shown that daily consumption can have health benefits.
Cocoa flavanols are known to have a positive effect on blood vessel health and circulation.
Maintaining good blood flow and circulation is important, as it enables red blood cells to deliver oxygen and nutrients to vital organs, such as the heart and brain. Having good circulation throughout your body supports your overall health and vitality. It is hugely important for cognitive function, promotes cell growth and organ function, and can speed up the body’s natural healing process.
Poor blood circulation is often a symptom of other health issues, and can be a contributing factor in their development. Poor circulation in the brain is associated with fatigue, poor cognitive function and low mood.
High blood pressure is also related to a whole host of conditions, including increased risk of strokes, heart failure and damage to the eyes, arteries and kidneys.
Cocoa flavanols promote good circulation and healthy blood pressure. They:
- help to maintain the elasticity of blood vessels by increasing production of nitric oxide. This causes the muscles around blood vessels to dilate, which results in better regulation of blood pressure.
- contribute to the normal functioning of the cardiovascular system thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties
- may directly influence insulin resistance
Some studies have also suggested that cocoa flavanols could have a positive effect on brain function and cognitive health.
Although cocoa flavanols are clearly beneficial, getting enough requires you to eat a lot of chocolate, which contains large amounts of sugar and fat. Overconsumption and a sugar-heavy diet can be bad for your health. In addition, the process of making chocolate can destroy some of the flavanols in cocoa beans.
So, contrary to some stories that appear in the media, it is consumption of flavanols – not chocolate – that causes a beneficial effect. Supplements containing a high concentration of cocoa flavanols may be a better option.