The trend of marketing food products or additives as medicine has gained momentum in the society. Most businesses or manufacturers blend their products with additives or supplements that are believed to have healing properties. Some health experts have openly rejected the concept of marketing food as medicine. Despite this objection, most people have resorted to the so called natural means of maintaining good health. This scenario has forced many health experts to venture into research to unearth health secrets that underlie natural meals and ingredients. This paper focuses on the use of cacao, a raw form chocolate. The paper critically analyses the benefits associated with the consumption of cacao. It involves looking at the benefits, uncertainties and problems caused by cacao use. In essence, the discourse enables to comprehend all the mysteries surrounding cacao and its use. More so, it enables one to know what exactly the components of cacao are.
Description of Cacao
Cacao comes from an ever green tree that belongs to malvaceae family. The major component of this tree is its seeds, which are used to make chocolate, among other things. The cacao tree has got thin leaves and is mainly grown in the Amazon parts of America. Cacao pods come in a blend of colors, depending on the species of the crop. The most common colors associated with cacao pods are: red, green-white, yellow and purple colors. A cacao plant can live for as long as 40 years. However, its commercial value is limited to only 25 years.
Many people use cacao as a supplement when making cocoa butter, chocolate and cocoa powder. More so, numerous cosmetic industries have ventured into cacao use to produce a number of cosmetics. These are products consumed by people across the globe.
How It Is Delivered
As highlighted in the preceding paragraphs, cacao is a product from cacao tree. Trees are planted, just like any other natural tree. When they bear pods, harvesting of pods is done, and processed according to the needs of consumers. Upon harvesting of pods, they are split using machetes, and pulp is removed from pods (Beckett 44). Thereafter, beans are placed in huge boxes. After being covered by banana leaves, they are left to ferment for a period of a week. The aim of fermentation is to flavor the cacao. In the process of fermenting, temperatures rise and this turns the pulp into a liquid. During the fermentation process, some seeds germinate, only to be killed by the high temperatures; also, turning of the beans on a regular basis is done to prevent creation of hot spots. Having fermented, seeds are dried using ovens. Regular turning is done to ensure that the moisture rate drops to 7%.
After this stage, roasting of beans is carried out at a temperature of 200F to 250F. The process takes approximately two hours. This morphs seeds to brown colored. The major aim of this process is to turn seeds into the required flavor of cacao. Through winnowing, the chaff is removed from seeds resulting into kernels that are referred to as cacao nibs. Cacao nibs have got over 400 chemicals that are attributable to its flavor.
At this stage, cacao is ready to be used in any other process. This is the time when companies manufacturing cocoa butter, cocoa powdered, chocolate and cocoa cosmetics can supplement other ingredients to achieve the desired products.
Benefits of Cacao Use
As far as health matters are concerned, cacao nibs are extremely useful. For instance, it is a dietary fiber which enables an individual’s bowels to regularly move (Pech, 213). The human body requires a single ounce of raw cacao nibs on a daily basis. These fibers are crucial in eliminating constipation cases in the body. Thus, its usage is an assurance of free bowel movement in the body.
People with heart problems are advised to regularly use cacao products. According to scientific findings, cacao is friendly to the heart since it helps open up arteries in both the heart and brain. This facilitates free flow of blood which reduces strain to the heart. In essence, regular consumption of cacao products is a sure way of avoiding complications such as heart attack and stroke.
Consumption of cacao plays a crucial role as an anti-clotting agent. In old aged people and a few inactive young people, there are regular cases of blood clotting in their veins. Using cacao nibs eliminates these complications outright. More so, cacao is known for its ability to act as antioxidant. Whenever there is excess cholesterol in the body, cacao lowers low-density lipoproteins as it raises high-density lipoproteins.
According to the study by the “Food and Function” experts, it was realized that cacao plays a critical role in regulating sugar levels in the body. Furthermore, it was discovered that this product also lowers high blood pressure complications in the human body.
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Potential Drawbacks of Cacao Use
It is necessary to note that there has been no major scientific prove about the dangers associated with use of cacao nibs. However, much has been said about a number of drawbacks that cacao effects on the human body. Among them is the addictive nature of cacao. This is a product, which is considered to be one of the most addictive substances on the globe. Therefore, excessive use of cacao products could make someone a slave of cacao.
Just like coffee, it is claimed that cacao acts as a stimulant. Therefore, its regular use could prejudice the normal functioning of the body. For instance, its use may cause sleeplessness. This is a condition that ends up stressing the body. Apart from that, excessive use of cacao stresses the kidney due to its stimulating nature. Thus, the ultimate consequent of excessive cacao consumption could be kidney complexions.
Some experts aver that regular use of raw cacao could lead to complications such as paranoia, mood swings, nightmares and depression. These are health conditions that are extremely undesirable since their results are appalling.
When used in excessive levels, cacao could act as a hallucinogen. It courses the user perceive real things to appear distorted. Therefore, it is important to ascertain the measures that the body can take to avoid chaos and confusions generated by hallucinations.
Just like most products, cacao nibs contain toxic components that are small in content. However, as one uses cacao for long, these components accumulate in the body. With time, toxic components start causing problems to the body. The mostly affected parts in the body include: the liver and blood. One of the major roles of the liver is to purify blood by ejecting toxic materials out of the body. Thus, a continuous supply of toxic materials to the body by cacao overworks the liver. Ultimately, the liver is weakened and also affected by complications like liver cirrhosis.
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Scientific Basis and Evidence
Basically, this section serves to prove the facts underscored in the preceding section of the discourse. It should be noted that there is no scientific study, which has proved the drawbacks stated above. Therefore, much of the evidences tendered in this section are related to the benefits of cacao as opposed to its drawbacks.
A clinical research appearing in ‘Nutrition and Metabolism’ was carried out to a number of children (Skinner and Hunter 97). The children were divided into two groups. One group was supplied with skimmed milk containing high fiber cacao bran. The other group did not have any cacao constituent in their skimmed milk. The research took a month to release the results. According to the findings, children who were supplied with cacao constituent in their milk did not have problems with bowel movements. On the other hand, those who lacked this important component experienced bowl complications.
According to the contents in the “Journal of the American College Of Cardiology”, people who consume cacao products have a low propensity to suffer from high blood pressure and/or stroke. The journal reveals that people who took in cacao chocolates minimized their chances of suffering from stroke. Cacao contains a component known as polyphenols. This component has got elements in portions of 4% anthocyanins, 58% proanthocyanidins and 37% catechins (Pech 33). The three elements work as anti-oxidants as well as anti-clotting agents. Thus, polyphenols prevent unnecessary clotting of platelets, a common complication in aging people.