GO LOCO OVER COCOA
Naini Setalvad urges you to try a helping of cocoa the next time you want to indulge and stay healthy
Many people probably think that either electricity, the wheel, or the computer is the greatest invention of all time, but I beg to differ. In my opinion, it has to be chocolate. Chocolate has been a part of our lives since 3000 BC. The ancient Mayans and Aztecs extracted cocoa beans from cocoa trees, roasted them, added spices to this paste, and mixed them into water. The result was an intoxicating drink that was consumed on religious occasions, for medicinal use, and by the elite circles. It even began to be used as currency. Clearly, they understood that there is nothing that is as tantalising, sinful, and satisfying as chocolate.
There is one key ingredient, a powerhouse of antioxidants, that makes chocolate irresistible—cocoa. Extracted from cocoa beans, this main component of chocolate adds a bitter-sweet flavour to food items. These beans not only taste good but also have several health benefits that we may not even be aware of. Now, before you make a beeline for the refrigerator to grab your favourite candy bar, let me tell you that to reap any significant benefit of cocoa, you would have to consume over a thousand calories of chocolate, most of which would comprise sugar and fat. Hence, it is best recommended to have cocoa in its most natural form. I prefer to keep organic roasted cocoa beans or powder in my pantry, and here is why you should too.
Free radicals are electrons that can damage the cells in an organism. Oxidation is a process that leads to the production of free radicals, and antioxidants are the little soldiers that prevent this process of oxidation from occurring. Cocoa beans contain a large number of natural antioxidants known as flavonoids. The presence of these flavonoids fights oxidative stress, consequently reducing the risk of various diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and atherosclerosis.
Another important benefit of cocoa beans that can’t be overlooked is their anti-inflammatory properties. Cocoa contains catechins, a compound most popularly associated with the health benefits of green tea. The catechins present in the beans induce anti-inflammatory actions and prevent chronic inflammation. Other than this, the limitation of inflammation reduces the risk of arthritis, psoriasis, and other heart diseases. A certain level of inflammation is always necessary for the body to protect itself from injuries and infections. However, inflammation beyond a certain point can result in other related diseases and can start damaging healthy body tissue and cells.
Did you know that cocoa beans help maintain healthy cholesterol levels? Certain properties of the beans reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke.
One of the major issues faced in diabetes is poor blood flow. Cocoa has shown to improve blood circulation, reducing the risk of amputation and cataracts.
As you may know, obesity is a widely spreading disorder that involves extremely high levels of body fat and can bring along many other related problems too. Cocoa beans help in lipid metabolism, which prevents excessive fat storage. The husk of the beans is an effective way of curing chronic constipation and promotes bowel movement.
Who knew such a delicious ingredient had so many benefits for our body? Do make the most of this bitter-sweet bean.
Banana chikoo cocoa smoothie
½ tbsp cocoa powder
3-4 ice cubes
1. Chop the banana and chikoo into small pieces.
2. Place the chopped banana and chikoo in a blender, along with the ice cubes and the cocoa powder, and blend.
3. Serve chilled with a pinch of cocoa for garnish.
Ragi chocolate pudding
2 tbsp nachni (ragi) flour
½ -1 tsp stevia
½ tbsp cocoa powder, unsweetened
½ cup coconut milk
½ cup water
• Combine the coconut milk and water in a vessel and set aside. This is your wet mixture.
• Take the nachni (ragi) flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, and stevia in a pan.
• Whisk it well to combine. This is your dry mixture.
• To the above dry mixture, gradually whisk in the wet mixture.
• Once mixed well, keep the stove on the lowest flame and place the pan with the mixture over the stove.
• Keep whisking the mixture till it starts to thicken. It will take about 10-12 minutes to come together and be fully cooked. Add more water if necessary.
• Switch off the stove once the mixture is glossy and thick.
• Lightly coat the inside of the heat-safe serving bowls with water.
• Pour the pudding mixture in it, cover, and refrigerate till firm.
• While serving, garnish with cocoa nibs and serve chilled.
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