Answer: Yes, cocoa powder is vegan, and it’s right for you too.
Cocoa powder is known fondly for its role in treats like hot chocolate and truffles. What’s less obvious is that it’s like a superfood. Luckily, pure cocoa powder is vegan and suitable for a variety of dishes.
The cocoa bean, which grows on the cacao tree, is a raw ingredient that does not contain any dairy or gluten. The beans are roasted and ground into cocoa powder, which in this form is safe for vegans. So make sure you’re using pure cocoa powder, not processed hot chocolate powder, which can have dairy in it.
If a chocolate product is made from 100% cocoa solids, it’s plant-based and safe for vegans. If you want to be sure, check for dairy by looking at the bottom of the ingredients list for an allergy warning like “contains milk ingredients.” Allergens in the ingredients list should be bolded.
Getting into pure cocoa powder is worth your while because it tastes good and is suitable for you. It has a natural fruity flavor and is more intensely chocolaty than its diluted derivatives. The cacao tree is generally an excellent plant; its vegan-friendly beans, butter, and powder have many health benefits.
Cocoa Powder And Health
Polyphenols Are Nutritious
Cocoa is chock-full of polyphenols, which are healthy micronutrient compounds. You’ll want to learn about flavonoids, a type of polyphenol commonly found in cocoa powder. Flavonoids will enrich your diet and help regulate your body’s cellular activity. The antioxidant effects of cocoa’s flavonoids reduce cell damage, lower blood pressure, and assist blood flow. They fight inflammation and are suitable for skin cells too. This may improve your overall skin structure, from roughness to density, and your resistance to sunlight.
If you thought cocoa powder was bad for your teeth, you’re wrong. It has another type of polyphenol called tannins, which combat bacteria that stick to teeth. Tannins and related compounds neutralize bacteria and stop them from turning into damaging acids.
The bacteria in plaque feed on sugars in your mouth and their waste products contribute to inflammation. Cocoa’s antioxidants can slow the production of plaque, soothing swollen gums. Not bad for something so heavily associated with chocolate.
Your Brain On Cocoa
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that cocoa powder can also liven your mood. Long-term intake of its flavonoids can reduce depressive symptoms and improve calmness. Further, it can bolster serotonin, which is a chemical your nerves produce, decreasing fatigue and anxiety.
Flavonoids are pretty good for your brain, so cocoa aids overall cognition. This may keep you sharp, maintaining your memory and processing skills. It’s even suitable for nitric oxide production, which relaxes the muscle in blood vessels, boosting blood supply to the brain.
One interesting thing is that cocoa seems to make people feel full. Dark chocolate, in particular, is satiating and can cut down cravings. That’s pretty handy when you’re watching your weight!
Cocoa powder has goodies besides polyphenols, especially minerals. You’ll find iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and especially magnesium and manganese. It’s one of the best dietary sources for the latter two, which are brimming with nutrition.
You’ll want to get your magnesium, which wards off cardiovascular disease and is right for your metabolism. It’s also essential for hair and nail growth. Don’t miss out on manganese either, as it helps produce antioxidants, facilitates wound healing, and strengthens bones. It contributes to many functions, including the central nervous system, blood sugar regulation, enlargement of veins for efficient blood transport, and addressing premenstrual symptoms.
Also, cocoa powder has almost 2g of fiber but only around ten calories per tablespoon. The most fiber in cocoa is insoluble, and insoluble fiber helps food move through the digestive system, preventing constipation. Insoluble fiber is not a source of calories, so the cocoa powder can conveniently add lots of nutrients to your diet. Toss it in cereal or on salad, stir it into your coffee or tea, mix it with chili or peanut butter, and more.
Things To Consider
As you’ll have expected, there are some detriments to think about, so don’t overdo it with cocoa powder. It contains 230 milligrams of caffeine per 100 grams, so be wary if you’ve got caffeine sensitivity. In general, too much caffeine can cause nervousness and muscle tremors. Another stimulant in cocoa is theobromine, which is healthy but associated with headaches and rapid heart rate.
Keep in mind that heating or processing cocoa powder destroys most of its flavonoids, so it’s best to consume it as-is. Watch out for cocoa powder in its Dutch-process (alkalized) form, which has far fewer flavonoids than usual. It’s less acidic, though, so it’s suitable for cooking. For dark chocolate, choose 70% cocoa or higher for the best results.
Check out PRANA’s organic raw cacao powder from Peruvian farming communities that cultivate the beans in an ecological manner. Then there’s a traditional hot cocoa mix from St. Claire’s Organics, which contains only cocoa powder, molasses granules, and cacao nib (crushed cocoa bean) extract. For something more adventurous, try Coconut Cloud’s peppermint hot cocoa featuring tapioca syrup and sea salt, among other ingredients.
Once you get your hands on this stuff, pour some in a shaker and dribble it on food. Add it to banana slices on bread or a fruit mix. Experiment and let your vegan curiosity run wild.
Cocoa powder will find its way into your daily routine since it makes healthy snacks easy. You can bake banana bread using cocoa powder and cacao nibs—mix cocoa powder with soy milk, almond butter, and bananas for a vegan smoothie. Don’t hesitate to use it for granola bars and coconut balls.
The possibilities can get outlandish, but they’re worth exploring. There’s an unusual cocoa vinaigrette that goes with crunchy salad. Get a kick out of red wine cocoa cupcakes. And don’t disregard avocado cocoa truffles.
One way or another, cocoa powder is great for adults and kids alike. Whether you’re a foodie or you need a nutrient fix, whether you want to get fit or you’re a vegan, this powder born of ground beans will put a spring in your step. No wonder cocoa is called the food of the gods.