Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Comprehensive Review of Cocoa and Its Health Benefits, History, and Nutritional Profile
Cocoa is considered an indulgent confection, but in its origins, cocoa was best known for its medicinal properties, with over 100 different uses recorded between the 16th and 20th centuries. Today, cocoa consumption ranges from 0.12 kg/person/year in China to 11.85 kg/person/year in Ireland, with the US in the middle of this range at 5.18 kg/person/year. In 2006-2007, over 1.2 million tons of cocoa were produced in the largest producing country of Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast).

Processing consists of grounding, roasting, shelling, and fermenting the cocoa beans (nibs), which makes a thick paste called cocoa liquor; the amount of cocoa liquor is what is measured to arrive at the percent cacao (which also includes the cocoa butter added back into the product) listed on food packaging. When combined with cocoa butter (the fat component of the nibs) and sugar, it makes dark chocolate, and milk chocolate when milk is also added. White chocolate is made using only the cocoa butter from nibs, with added sweeteners and dairy ingredients. Nibs also contain fiber (most of which is lost with processing) and minerals such as magnesium, copper, and iron (providing a significant portion of the RDA). The cocoa butter consists of the monosaturated fatty acid oleic acid (as in olive oil) and saturated fatty acids palmitic acid and stearic acid, the latter of which does not elevate serum lipids as do other saturated fatty acids.