Cocoa powder comes from cocoa beans, which are produced by the cacao tree, which is farmed in many tropical countries. The beans are processed into chocolate liquor, most of the fat is removed, and the remaining paste is dried and powdered. According to food scientists and tasters at Cook's Illustrated in a 2005 report, dutch-processed cocoa powder -- cocoa beans soaked in an alkaline solution -- is identical to "natural" cocoa powder except that the "dutched" cocoa tastes better in drinks, baked goods and chocolates.
Fats in Cocoa Powder
Cocoa powder contains 12 grams of total fat in one cup, 7 grams of which are saturated fat, 4 grams are mono-unsaturated fat, and a remaining fraction are poly-unsaturated fat. Comparing a likely substitute for cocoa powder, unsweetened baking chocolate, reveals much higher fat content of 69 grams for one-cup shredded, with 43 grams of this fat being saturated.
Cocoa Powder Nutrition Basics
Cocoa powder contains 12 grams of total fat in one cup, 7 grams of which are saturated fat, 4 grams are mono-unsaturated fat, and a remaining fraction is poly-unsaturated fat. Cocoa powder has 17 grams of protein in one cup and 50 grams of carbohydrates. When the fat content is figured in, there are 196 calories in a cup of cocoa powder. Fiber amounts to 27 grams, with only about a gram of sugar in one cup. Cocoa powder has no added sugar, so it can be useful to get chocolate flavor, without all the calories and fat in other forms of chocolate.
Cocoa Powder Body Builders
One cup of cocoa powder contains 1311 grams of potassium, an essential mineral found in plants which regulates heartbeat, blood pressure, and sodium levels, and provides more than 25 percent of the recommended daily intake of 4700 milligrams for adults. Cocoa powder also contains phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium, which build bones, tissues and nerves in the body. When viewed in terms of daily requirements, the vitamin content is, for the most part, insignificant, with only trace amounts of the major vitamins. The exceptions are choline, folate, and lutein, which help maintain healthy nervous systems, cell membranes, skin and vision, as well as preventing certain birth defects in developing infants.
Other Nutritional Aspects of Cocoa Powder
In cocoa powder, amino acids are present in small amounts, and span the complete range of those that form proteins in the body and help process food. Essential amino acids must be supplied by food because they can't be manufactured in the body. Many amino acid sources are non-vegetarian, but this one is strictly pant-based.
Cocoa Powder as Flavor-Enhancer to Nutritional Foods
The dutching process mentioned above mellows the acidity of the flavors, and allows the more intricate flavors to come through. The complexity of these flavors provides a great flavor boost to what might otherwise be boring "health foods." This may be one of the reasons so many healthy children's snacks contain some cocoa.
Cocoa Powder as a Mild Stimulant
A cup of coffee brewed with water contains 95 milligrams of caffeine, and a cup of cocoa would require 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder, which only contains 12 milligrams of caffeine. Theobromine is another phytocompound found in cocoa and tea, but not in coffee. This stimulant, reportedly milder than caffeine, is perhaps part of the reason chocolate seems to elevate mood.