Hershey's Cocoa Powder May Be Healthier Than You Thought

Using Hershey's Cocoa Powder offers you many health benefits. (Image: Michelle Arnold / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages)

It's easy to make chocolaty beverages and sweets using Hershey's Cocoa Powder. The 300 chemicals in cocoa also give you many health benefits, including protecting you from chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. However, discuss the pros and cons with your doctor before making Hershey's Cocoa Powder a regular part of your daily diet. Be aware as well that cocoa powder can cause allergic reactions.

Tip

Hershey's Cocoa Powder is rich in phytonutrients that may protect your body from chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancers.

Learn the Varieties of Cocoa

Hershey's makes its cocoa powder in two varieties, according to the company's website. You can choose between Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder and Special Dark Cocoa Powder. Both varieties contain 100 percent pure cocoa, but Hershey's processes the Special Dark with alkali. This process, known as dutching, makes it taste less bitter and look darker.

Dutching also changes the nutrient content of cocoa, according to a 2017 report in the Journal of Food Science. In fact, using alkali to process cocoa causes a 50 percent reduction in flavonols. This loss lowers the antioxidant capacity of cocoa. However, it increases the cocoa's resistance to bacterial contamination.

Learn the Nature of Cocoa

Theobroma cacao trees produce the seed-containing fruit used to make cocoa powder. Manufacturers also use this seed to make chocolate and cocoa butter. Prehistoric cultures used the seed as money.

A 2017 review in Frontiers in Immunology describes the many steps needed to turn chocolate fruit into cocoa powder. Cocoa can lose its nutritional value during this long process. To keep it 100 percent pure, Hershey's has taken a minimalist approach to processing its cocoa. This strategy keeps the many nutrients present in the cocoa powder.

Learn the History of Cocoa

Farmers in Ecuador domesticated Theobroma cacao trees thousands of years ago, according to a 2018 paper in Communications Biology. The European colonization of South America led to cocoa beans arriving in Spain in the 1600s. Surprisingly, in today's global economy, greater cocoa production comes from Africa than South America.

Know the Macronutrients in Cocoa

Cocoa powder has an excellent macronutrient profile. Two tablespoons of cocoa contain about 25 calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They also supply 6 grams of carbohydrate, 3.5 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein and 1.5 grams of fat. These numbers make cocoa powder a low-calorie, low-fat food that's high in fiber.

Know the Micronutrients in Cocoa

Cocoa powder has an excellent micronutrient profile as well. A 2016 report in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition showed that it has abundant magnesium, selenium, iron and zinc.

Know the Phytonutrients in Cocoa

Cocoa powder also has an amazing collection of phytonutrients. While not essential, these natural chemicals may play a role in slowing down the aging process and preventing disease. Polyphenols, like flavonols, are examples of the types of phytonutrients found in cocoa. These polyphenols also have antioxidant properties.

A 2015 thesis from Middle East Technical University reviewed the many phytonutrients present in cocoa powder. The author noted that cocoa powder has more flavonol content than almost any other food. It's also readily available and convenient to use.

Use Cocoa to Fight Cancer

It's estimated that colon cancer kills nearly 50,000 people in the United States each year. Despite recent medical advances, doctors have yet to find a cure for this deadly disease. A 2016 review in the journal Diseases looked into the possible effects of cocoa in fighting colon cancer. Preliminary results suggest that cocoa can slow all three stages of cancer — initiation, promotion and progression.

The mechanisms underlying these effects remain unknown. Yet they seem to involve the many polyphenolic compounds present in cocoa. These compounds act as a general antioxidant and directly fight cancer. The authors of the 2016 review suggest that the daily consumption of cocoa could prevent colon cancer with minimal toxicity.

Use Cocoa to Fight CVD

Cardiovascular disease, CVD, remains the leading cause of mortality for both men and women in the United States. In fact, heart disease causes one of three deaths around the world. A 2018 paper in the Journal of Medicinal Food looked at the possible use of cocoa polyphenols to fight CVD. In this paper, the authors noted the role isoprostanes play in heart disease.

Poor lifestyle choices, like smoking, increase the isoprostanes circulating throughout your body. These natural chemicals cause inflammation and pain. They also may block the potentially positive effects of aspirin. Amazingly, four weeks of daily supplementation with 110 milligrams of cocoa polyphenols significantly lowered isoprostanes in healthy women and men.

Use Cocoa to Fight Diabetes

Nearly one in 11 adults will soon meet the criteria for diabetes, according to a 2018 report in Endocrinology. The complications of this debilitating condition include heart disease and weight gain, which further increase mortality risk. Doctors believe that changing your lifestyle can slow progression of this disease. A 2017 review in Antioxidants evaluated the potential of cocoa to help people manage their diabetes.

The authors of the 2017 review list the abundant evidence that cocoa flavonoids improve diabetic symptoms. They list five possible mechanisms underlying cocoa's benefits. It seems to regulate your carbohydrate absorption, increase your insulin production, improve your sensitivity to insulin, lower your cholesterol, scavenge your free radicals and decrease your inflammation.

The researchers, however, caution against encouraging people to ingest more cocoa. They note that many cocoa products have abundant sugar. This surplus sugar may cancel out the known benefits of cocoa. Yet Hershey's wisely offers cocoa powder as an unsweetened product, thereby addressing this concern.

Stay Aware of Your Risks

Ingesting cocoa powder can cause side effects. Although rare, doctors have seen cases of cocoa allergy. Your cocoa may also be contaminated. A 2016 thesis from Virginia Tech described the many possible sources of bacterial contamination that can occur during the processing of cocoa. These sources include workers' hands and their cutting tools.

Heavy metals can also taint your cocoa. In fact, Hershey's just reached a legal settlement with As You Sow about the possible cadmium and lead content of its cocoa products. A point of contention in this settlement was how — not if — the contamination occurred. As You Sow argued that it happened at the manufacturing facility, and Hershey's argued that it occurred naturally from the trees' soil.

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