What are cocoa flavanols?
Flavanols are plant-based antioxidants naturally occurring in tea, blueberries, red wine, apples and cocoa. Cocoa flavanols are a highly unique blend of phytonutrients found only in the cocoa bean. Consumption of cocoa flavanols has been shown to improve blood vessel function, thereby improving the delivery of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.
The main flavanols present in cocoa beans are catechins and epicatechins in either monomeric or multimeric (procyanidin) forms. Cocoa beans themselves come from cocoa pods, or the “fruit” of the Theobrama Cacao tree as seen in figure one.
Raw cacao is the earth’s top source of antioxidants – with 40X the antioxidants of blueberries per milligram. Flavanol content in chocolate and cocoa powder, however, varies considerably based on factors such as growing conditions, agricultural processes, fermentation methods, and roasting techniques. Unfortunately, cocoa flavanols are easily destroyed by standard commercial processing so most chocolate and cocoa products contain relatively small amounts of this highly beneficial supernutrient.
How do cocoa flavanols boost your health?
Cocoa flavanols exert their health benefits by maintaining blood vessel function and the healthy transport of oxygen and nutrients throughout the cardiovascular system. Did you know that stretched end to end, arteries, veins, and other vessels of the human circulatory system would measure about 60,000 miles?
Cocoa flavanols specifically enhance healthy circulation by helping your body maintain appropriate amounts of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide, in turn, relaxes the inner lining of your arterial walls or endothelium so that arteries can better expand and contract to enhance blood flow. This is sometimes referred to as flow mediated dilation. Finally, better circulation of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body supports brain, heart & skin health. The illustration below highlights the mechanism of action of cocoa flavanols.