How Many Flavonoids Are in Cocoa Powder?
When news broke that eating chocolate could have health benefits, sweets-eaters around the globe rejoiced—finally, a favorite treat that is actually good for us! But is this scoop too good to be true?
Those reported health benefits—like supporting brain and heart health—actually come from cocoa flavanols, a naturally occurring compound in the cacao plant. And published research shows that regular consumption of flavanols does promote healthy blood vessel function and arterial flexibility, helping your blood to deliver the high levels of oxygen and nutrients your heart and brain need to perform at their best.
But before you get too excited about your chocolate treats: not all cocoa is created equal, so it’s really important to know what you’re getting.
Flavanols are very delicate, and easily destroyed during conventional processing. So contrary to popular belief, most popular chocolate products—cocoa powders, dark chocolate and nibs—don’t contain enough cocoa flavanols for you to get a health benefit. Nor do most of these products typically indicate or guarantee a specific concentration of cocoa flavanol per serving. Another caveat: chocolate is fine to enjoy in moderation as a treat, but it contains fat, added sugar, and is calorically-dense. Since studies show that you need to consume cocoa flavanols daily to get their maximum health benefits, so chocolate is probably not your best bet.
Flavonoids and Flavanols 101
Flavonoids are a group of compounds made by plants and have a similar shape and chemical structure to one another. Dietary flavonoids are found in the plants we eat, including many fruits and vegetables. Flavanols are a subgroup of the larger flavonoid group, found in a variety of plant-based drinks and foods, including tea, berries, apples and—you guessed it—cocoa.
Of all these sources, cocoa flavanols are unique because they are the most bioavailable, meaning that our bodies are more easily able to absorb them and receive the maximum benefits.
How do Flavanols Support Our Health?
Decades of research show cocoa flavanols support heart, brain and whole-body health by promoting healthy blood flow. They do this by acting on blood vessels, increasing the body’s production of a compound called nitric oxide (NO). NO causes the thin muscles in and around the blood vessel walls to relax, allowing the blood vessel to dilate, or widen.
We have miles of blood vessels in our bodies, so their ability to function well is critical to our entire cardiovascular system—and everything it impacts: bones, muscles, tissue, organs, metabolic system—basically, our entire bodies. So in addition to supporting heart health, flavanols improve a number of critical functions throughout our body, including maintaining healthy blood pressure levels and delivering more oxygen and nutrients to your brain.
In fact, the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study shows cocoa flavanols preserved and even reversed age-related memory decline in healthy older adults!
That’s just one example of health and wellness research the scientists at Mars have been conducting for more than 20 years. In fact, they’ve published more than 150 scientific papers and conducted more than 30 case studies on cocoa flavanols. Take a look at some of their research on the benefits of cocoa flavanols here.
How Many Cocoa Flavanols Will You Find in Chocolate?
Maybe a little. Maybe none. And there’s no good way to know.
First, let’s be clear: chocolate is fine as an occasional treat, but it’s not a health food. And while cacao beans are a rich source of flavanols, chocolate is not the best source for these delicate natural compounds because they are often destroyed in the chocolate-making process.
So how do you know how much cocoa flavanol bang you’re getting for your buck—or whether you’re getting enough?
Ensuring such a high concentration of flavanols starts with high quality cocoa beans. Then, gentle handling and processing of the beans, from harvesting through final delivery of the product, is critical to preserving their precious flavanols.
Then there’s the question of exactly how much was preserved during processing.
Until very recently, measuring the amount of cocoa flavanols people were consuming from their food and drinks was a process of complex guesstimation. But in the first study of its kind, Mars researchers—collaborating with experts at the University of Reading, the University of California Davis and the University of Cambridge—have identified and validated the first biomarkers that objectively measure flavanol intake at scale.
If you don’t have a Ph.D. in nutrition or biomedical science, here’s the translation: our researchers have discovered flavanol biomarkers—think of them as searchable chemical hashtags—giving scientists a way to detect the presence of flavanols and precisely measure the amount, in individual diets and across large populations.
But not every product boasting it has cocoa flavanols uses this rigorous measurement process, so it’s important for consumers to make sure the products they purchase contain the type and amount of flavanols and procyanidins that guarantee efficacy and safety. You can learn more about understanding cocoa flavanol content claims on products and in scientific papers here.
Another big drawback of relying on dark chocolate for flavanols: it’s high in calories, fat and carbohydrates. In fact, to get the same amount of cocoa flavanols in a 30-day supply of CocoaVia™, you’d have to eat more than 15 pounds of dark chocolate—or more than 38,000 calories and 3,840 grams of fat—with no guarantee of cocoa flavanol content. By comparison, CocoaVia™ a daily serving of CocoaVia™ capsules has 450 mg of flavanols, five calories and zero grams of fat.
The Best Source of Cocoa Flavanols
While we can’t tell you exactly how many flavanoids are in the cocoa powder in your grocery store, or how many flavanols are in the dark chocolate in your pantry, we can tell you ConsumerLab.com named CocoaVia™ supplements the Highest Quality, Top Rated Cocoa Flavanol Product after a rigorous testing process in independent laboratories across a variety of criteria. You might even be able to find your favorite dark chocolate or cocoa powder brand in their report.
Because preserving cocoa flavanols during the extraction process is key, our scientists developed the proprietary Cocoapro® process, which gently extracts cocoa flavanols from high-quality cocoa beans, preserving them in the highest concentration available in a supplement today.
We guarantee our capsules and stick packs have 450 mg of high-quality cocoa flavanols per serving and will support your heart and brain health by promoting healthy blood flow. Whether you prefer the on-the-go convenience of a capsule or want to enjoy the delicious taste of our powdered stick packs, , make sure you’re getting at least 450mg of cocoa flavanols in your diet every day.
The takeaway: while it’s unlikely you’ll get the health benefits of cocoa flavanols from your favorite chocolate treat, cocoa powder or a mug of hot chocolate, you do have a convenient, tasty low-fat, low-cal and low-carb option available in CocoaVia™.
Learn more about cocoa flavanols—from health benefits to detailed scientific research—and see the difference for yourself by trying CocoaVia™ products for 30 days.