Fights free radicals and slows down the ageing of cells; increases alertness and combats depression.
Cocoa contains lipids, glucides and proteins, but also minerals (magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, sodium and phosphorus) and important active ingredients such as caffeine, serotonin, phenylethylamine, and tyramine. The main alkaloid is theobromine, a euphoric which also has a diuretic effect. There are also significant percentages of vitamin B3, and other B vitamins. Polyphenols act as an anti-inflammatory and inhibit the aggregation of platelets in the blood, reducing the risk of heart attack.
The cocoa plant is an evergreen typical of South America reaching up to 10 metres in height and produces white flowers with rosy shades. The ovoid fruit (cocoa bean) is initially yellowish in colour and similar to a citron, before taking on a brown-reddish colour when ripe. The seeds, almond-shaped, which produce cocoa, are gathered in 5 lines inside the fruit.
Cocoa is native to Central America, where it was already cultivated in the pre-Columbian era and is now cultivated in many tropical regions (Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador) and also in Central Africa. It is a delicate crop, and it is only possible to be grown in tropical regions: the plants are planted 5m apart and intercalated generally by legumes, such as inga, or albizzia, called the mother of cocoa, which helps them receive a little shade and protect them from the wind. The cocoa tree blooms in the third year and begins producing from the fifth or sixth.
Cocoa is effective in the treatment of hypertension and hypercholesterolemia.