Cocoa powder does my heart as much good as does my husband. I just love them both. There really is something about cocoa and chocolate which gives me bliss. You can read about my long-standing love affair with chocolates here.
Now back to cocoa powder. Cocoa powder is simply cacao beans which are cooked (either baked, sun-dried or roasted) and then ground to powder. At least that’s how it is done here in my country. I’ve seen grandmothers do that right in their own kitchen. However, some manufacturers—notably Western—use Dutch processing procedures to “improve” the flavor of cocoa powder and reduce its bitterness. What they do is that they subject the cocoa powder to alkalis which, unfortunately, strip the cocoa powder of much of its healthful goodness. Dutch-processed cocoa powder may have a more mellow and less bitter flavor but it is not as healthy as natural cocoa powder.
Natural Cocoa Powder
Natural or non-dutch processed cocoa powder is bursting with flavanol antioxidants which promote heart health. How do flavanols do the heart good? Flavanols boost the levels of nitric oxide which lines the blood vessels. Nitric oxide relaxes the blood vessels, causing more blood to flow and thus lowering blood pressure. It is the nitric oxide component of natural cocoa powder and dark chocolate which makes these comfort foods so heart-healthy.
Flavanols in cocoa powder also have probiotic potential, says the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. That is, cocoa flavanols may improve the gut microflora or good bacteria which help us fight infection and manufacture some vitamins. Read about good bacteria here.
So how do I choose my cocoa powder? Here are my criteria:
- It must be natural and non-dutch processed. The label should contain that information.
- It must be unsweetened. I fix my own chocolate drink at home, mixing in a little milk and my healthy sweetener—either muscovado sugar or coco sugar. I am quite paranoid about sweetened cocoa powder as it may contain magic sugar.
What is my brand of cocoa powder?
It’s this. Ricoa cocoa powder. Natural, 100% cocoa powder. How sure am I of that? Firstly, it says so in its packaging– 100% cocoa powder. Secondly, it has the exact same bitter taste of ground cacao beans—the kind of bitterness which mixes so well with milk by the way. On taste test, I can see that it has no additives. Again, how do I know that? Other cocoa powders are said to be mixed with ground soy grits–so say some tradesmen I know. Impure cocoa powder or that which has additives, has granular bits and residue. Pure cocoa powder is bittersweet and melts in your mouth without leaving any grainy texture.
I am not paid to write about, review or promote Ricoa cocoa powder. This brand is all-Filipino and I’ve known this for like ages. It costs half as much as Hersheys’ and is not dutch-processed. The company which manufactures this is the same one which makes my favorite Curly Tops and Flat Tops chocolates. It has no online store unfortunately, (I hope it comes up with one soon) but it is available in supermarkets and groceries nationwide.
My recipe for my breakfast cocoa:
- 200 ml of piping hot water
- 1 tablespoon of milk powder ( health buffs may frown at this, but hey, it’s cocoa’s perfect match)
- 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons of coco sugar or muscovado sugar
I drink 2 to 3 cups on most days, for a total of 1 tablespoon cocoa powder a day—the recommended daily consumption for optimum heart health.