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Have you ever returned home after a hectic & stressful day only to be greeted by your adorable dog wagging his tail and licking your face?

I bet all the stress would have withered away in an instant and there would be a big smile on your face.

These simple pleasures in life like caressing a pet, enjoying a beautiful sunset, singing in the shower and many more are the ones which truly make our life worth living.

One such heavenly pleasure that many of you may have experienced is that of indulging in a steaming cup of hot cocoa with whipped cream on the top, on a freezing winter morning.

There is simply something magical about letting the hot cocoa glide through your mouth.

The rich taste, texture, enrapturing smell, everything about it totally justifies the tag of the ‘Food of the Gods’ given to it by the Mayans.

It is just pure bliss, something that cannot be expressed in words, just experienced to the full.

But despite having all the characteristics of a delicious treat, there are countless health benefits of cocoa, unlike that of any other treat.

Here are the top 15 of these cocoa health perks:

1) Antioxidant Properties and Minerals

Starting with the amazing amount of antioxidants present in cocoa.

Antioxidants, as we all know, are highly beneficial for our health.

They help in preventing cancer, improve cardiovascular health, blood circulation and elasticity of arteries.

If there is one food that you would consume to boost the levels of antioxidants in your body - then that is cocoa.

It is derived from cocoa bean which is found inside a cocoa fruit and it contains 3x the amount of antioxidants present in green tea and 2x that of red wine - the two most popular sources of antioxidants.

Add to that substantial amounts of minerals like calcium, copper, magnesium & zinc, and you have a superfood like no other.

2) Can Help Prevent Cancer

As mentioned above, cocoa can help you avert the deadly disease of cancer.

The flavanols present in cocoa are known to reduce damage to cells caused by oxidative stress, thus stunting the possible development of cancer.

Research has shown that these flavanols along with procyanidins in cocoa exhibit anti-proliferative and chemopreventive traits which aid in the treatment of cancers likes colorectal cancer and prostate cancer.

3) Helps Treat Diabetes

According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report, an estimated 30.3 million people of all ages, around 9.4% of the U.S. population had diabetes in 2015.

Diabetes being the seventh largest cause of death in 2015, is something that Americans need to be wary of and undertake steps to prevent it.

Cocoa can help you there, as the polyphenols in cocoa improve glucose breakdown, reduce blood pressure and enhance insulin resistance, thus aiding in regulating the sugar levels in your body.

Research has shown that cocoa has therapeutic potential in enhancing the vascular function of diabetics on various medications along with improving endothelial function and counteracting blood vessel dysfunction caused by diabetes.

So the next time you eat that extra slice of strawberry cake, don’t forget to follow that up with a cup of hot cocoa.

4) Cocoa Lowers Blood Pressure

cocoa-powder

Cocoa powder is rich in polyphenols which boost the availability of nitric oxide in blood vessel linings.

This nitric oxide is known to have a strong impact on dilating blood vessels and lowering blood pressure.

5) Effect of Cocoa on Cholesterol

Along with scaling down blood pressure and enhancing the health of blood vessels, consuming cocoa on a consistent basis has been shown to increase good HDL cholesterol and reduce bad LDL cholesterol among people below the age of 50.

6) Enhances Cardiovascular Health

The decent amount of polyphenols and magnesium present in cocoa makes it one of the best foods for improving your cardiovascular health.

The polyphenols dilate the coronary arteries and improve their elasticity while the magnesium increases heart strength and decreases the risk of blood clots - the major cause of stroke or cardiac failure.

Along with this, cocoa is also abundant in flavonoids, viz. procyanidin, catechin and epicatechin which assist in guarding the cells from damage besides strengthening the heart.

7) Treat Coughing

Constant coughing can be very disturbing both for the person doing it and the people around him.

Research has shown that theobromine found in cocoa can be very effective in treating these constant bouts of coughing.

Surely there can’t be a more delicious medicine than treating yourself to a cup of hot cocoa, right?

8) Boosts Energy

Want a quick jump in your energy levels?

Have a cup of cocoa and you will get that kick you will need to get your energy-sapping tasks done at will.

Maybe a cup of coffee can do the same thing for you, but you won’t experience the kind of coffee crash with cocoa, as it contains fewer stimulants to that of coffee.

9) Weight Loss

You might be surprised and elated to know that consuming cocoa on a regular basis can actually help you shed those extra pounds off your waist.

Although cocoa is known to be a little upwards in terms of calories, various studies have consistently shown that routine cocoa drinkers tend to have a lower BMI than that of non-drinkers.

The polyphenols present in cocoa seem to trigger muscle metabolism, simulating the effects of regular exercise to cause fat burning and build lean muscle mass.

Along with that, cocoa is also associated with negating the effects of the stress hormone cortisol and improved insulin sensitivity - two things which aid in weight loss.

10) Reduces Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) can cause extreme frustration in sufferers as there is no cure for it as of yet.

Though not a medicine to totally cure it, cocoa can help in inducing a calming influence on people enduring this syndrome.

Cocoa leads to the release of neurotransmitters like anandamide, serotonin and phenylethylamine in the brain which wield guarding effects from oxidative stress on the neuronal cells, thus assisting in battling this syndrome.

11) Skin Care and Aging Benefits

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Cocoa originates from the cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao) and is a great food for maintaining healthy skin.

Cocoa flavanols have been found to boost blood circulation and raise the concentration of oxygen in the skin.

It has also been found to improve skin hydration (soft skin), density and elasticity.

Exposure to ultraviolet rays of the sun can have damaging effects on your skin.

Routine consumption of cocoa can help you secure your skin from these harmful effects and decrease the possibility of premature skin aging.

Thanks to these numerous skin-beneficial qualities of cocoa, it has emerged as a popular ingredient in the making of various skin care products.

12) Speeds up Healing

If you are one of those who prefer natural medicinal products over the modern chemical ones, then you will be amazed to know that cocoa extracts are a mainstay ingredient in the manufacturing process of many of these products - thanks to their remedial and wound-healing properties.

They are also known to help in inhibiting the development of different kinds of infections in the body.

13) Beneficial for Brain Health

So far, we saw the anti-disease and physical health boosting effects of cocoa.

But the list doesn’t end there.

Cocoa has also been found to be beneficial for the mental health of human beings.

Scientists have indicated that flavanol-rich cocoa can help in maintaining a healthy brain.

MRI studies have shown that consuming cocoa consistently increases the blood flow to crucial parts of the brain involved in cognitive processes like memory and learning to improve efficiency and alertness of the brain.

These studies have further provided proof of the healing potential of cocoa for curing vascular disorders and offsetting cognitive decline.

14) Treatment of Neurodegenerative Disorders

cacao-bean

Neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's are known to be caused by a decreased blood flow to the brain.

As mentioned earlier, the flavonoids present in cocoa beans enhance the blood flow and oxygen to the brain, potentially assisting in treating these disorders.

Especially the presence of major flavanols like catechin and epicatechin has demonstrated beneficial outcomes in treating these diseases.

Another important mental aspect of regular consumption of cocoa is that - owing to the antioxidant properties of polyphenols, cocoa decreased the production of reactive oxidative species (ROS) which are known to be involved in the onset of these brain disorders.

15) Improves Mood

Cocoa is considered a natural anti-depressant as its flavanols help in improving mood and combating depression.

Cocoa increases the levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine in your body which relieve anxiety and cultivate a sense of well-being, leading to positive mental health.

Summary

That were quite some health benefits for a savory treat, which people of all ages like to feast upon.

Cocoa is probably the only delicacy which is as healthy as it is delicious.

So the next time you think of satisfying your taste buds without compromising on your health, just reach out for a mugful of hot cocoa.