Cocoa is rich in polyphenols, which have significant health benefits, including reduced inflammation and improved cholesterol levels. However, processing cocoa into chocolate or other products can substantially decrease the polyphenol content.
Studies reveal that cocoa is rich in flavanols, which lower blood pressure by improving nitric oxide levels and blood vessel function. Cocoa containing between 30–1,218 mg of flavanols can reduce blood pressure by an average of 2 mmHg.
Flavanols in cocoa can support neuron production, brain function and improve blood flow and supply to brain tissue. They may have a role in preventing age-related brain degeneration, such as in Alzheimer's disease, but more research is needed.