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What Are the Health Benefits of Cocoa & Coffee?

by 
author image Diane Lynn
Diane Lynn began writing in 1998 as a guest columnist for the "Tallahassee Democrat." After losing 158 pounds, she wrote her own weight-loss curriculum and now teaches classes on diet and fitness. Lynn also writes for The Oz Blog and her own blog, Fit to the Finish. She has a Bachelor of Science in finance from Florida State University.
What Are the Health Benefits of Cocoa & Coffee?
Both cocoa and coffee begin as beans. Photo Credit: Dziggyfoto/iStock/GettyImages

Both cocoa and coffee begin as beans. Manufacturers grind coffee or cocoa beans, and coffee aficionados grind the coffee beans for drinks. Cocoa beans, once processed, make the basis for chocolate candy and numerous desserts.

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Ground coffee beans make coffee, espresso, gourmet coffee drinks and a variety of coffee-based desserts. Although both cocoa and coffee drinks can be high in calories, there are benefits to both foods.

Cocoa Nutrients

Cocoa possesses high amounts of antioxidants, according to a publication announcing 2003 study results published in the “Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry” led by Cornell University. Antioxidants work within your body to reduce the risk of diseases such as cancer and potentially fatal heart disease. A serving of cocoa may have higher concentrations of flavonoids than either red wine or green tea.

Additionally, 1/2 cup of dry unsweetened cocoa powder has 98 calories, 8.4 grams of protein and 5.9 grams of fat. Over half the fat in cocoa powder comes from less healthy saturated fat. If you consume 2,000 calories a day, the saturated fat in cocoa provides 1.5 percent of your allowed saturated fat intake, making it an acceptable choice.

Coffee Nutrients

Coffee contains less than 3 calories per cup, a trace of protein and fat, no dietary fiber and no naturally occurring sugar, according to the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory.

A cup of standard brewed coffee has about 95 milligrams of caffeine. The coffee contains little other nutrients; however, it does have small amounts of choline, some B vitamins, and potassium. Positive aspects to coffee include its relatively high antioxidant content, which reduces the risk of developing certain diseases.

Cocoa Benefits

In addition to the antioxidant benefits of cocoa, eating cocoa in the form of dark chocolate may be beneficial for your heart. Cocoa flavanols may benefit your cardiovascular health by decreasing blood pressure, as indicated in a study published in the June 2008 edition of “Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”

A meta-analysis, performed by researchers from the Cardiology Department at a German University, found that participants who consumed either flavanol-rich dark chocolate or beverages made with cocoa powder experienced a small decrease in blood pressure. The study, published in the January 2010 issue of the “American Journal of Hypertension” did not specify an appropriate daily amount of cocoa, and long term side effects are not clear.

Coffee Benefits

Coffee is the second most consumed beverage after water, according to an article in the April 2011 issue of “Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.” Coffee, because of its “rich phytochemistry,” may reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, some cancers, degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, and can temporarily make you more alert.

Because coffee is basically a zero calorie beverage, you can drink black, unsweetened coffee without affecting the number of calories you consume throughout the day. To avoid any jitteriness you may feel when drinking caffeinated coffee, choose to drink decaffeinated coffee.

Inclusion Strategies

Eating dark chocolate can benefit your health. To avoid weight gain by eating too many calories from chocolate, factor in the 156 calories per 1 oz. of 70 percent dark chocolate.

Similarly, coffee with cream, whole milk, sugar or other high-calorie flavorings transforms the black coffee from a very low calorie beverage to a high-calorie one.

Use natural, zero-calorie sweeteners in your coffee, skim milk or drink it black. Dr. Rob van Dam, from the Harvard School of Public Health, indicates that drinking up to six cups of black coffee a day posed no higher health risk than non-coffee drinkers.

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