Raw Cacao: Your Beauty Superfood?

Cacao and Beauty

If you’ve read much about cacao – the main raw ingredient in chocolate – you’ll know it’s been linked with various health benefits, including for mood, energy, heart health and even memory.

As if you need more reasons to treat yourself to your favourite raw chocolate bar, did you know that eating raw cacao could have benefits for your skin, hair and nails, too?

Here are four ways in which eating raw cacao could help keep you looking beautiful…

Skin-protecting antioxidants

We know that raw cacao is rich in powerful flavanols – plant compounds thought to help stimulate our body’s antioxidant defences. (Read more about cacao flavanols here.) Well, research has found that eating chocolate high in flavanols could help protect skin against sun damage, as well as improving skin hydration and reducing roughness and scaling in skin exposed to UV light (i.e. sunlight)1.

Remember that for the antioxidant benefits, it’s always better to go for raw cacao or chocolate. The roasting process used in making conventional chocolate – no matter how dark it is – can reduce the content of those all-powerful flavanols.

Minerals for hair and nails

Cacao is rich in minerals, too. Although magnesium is the one we talk about most often (more on this below), others include zinc, selenium and iron2. We only need very tiny amounts of zinc and selenium, but both are vital for healthy and strong hair and nails. And iron affects nail shape: lack of this mineral can cause nails to grow abnormally, becoming flattened or indented with raised edges – although this may not happen until iron deficiency is severe.

Magnesium… for healthy skin?

Although magnesium isn’t the first nutrient we think of when it comes to beauty, getting plenty of if in our diet could help keep skin clear and young looking.

First of all, magnesium may play a role in balancing sex hormones – both oestrogen and testosterone – which could help prevent troublesome hormonal breakouts.

Secondly, magnesium is associated with helping to manage stress and support sleep. Either an overload of stress or lack of sleep (they often happen together!) can lead to dull, tired-looking skin. Basically, magnesium can help you get your beauty sleep! But a word of warning: eat that raw chocolate earlier in the day to build up your magnesium stores, as its mild stimulating effects could affect your sleep when eaten in the evening.

Copper for maintaining skin and hair colour

As if this all weren’t enough, cacao is also a source of copper3, which is required by an enzyme that produces melanin, the pigment that maintains our skin and hair colour. It helps us get a tan and stops our hair going grey!

From skin-protecting antioxidants to minerals for healthy, strong hair, skin and nails – could raw cacao be your new beauty superfood?

 

References

  1. Heinrich U et al. Long-term ingestion of high flavanol cocoa provides photoprotection against UV-induced erythema and improves skin condition in women. J Nutr. 2006 Jun;136(6):1565-9.
  2. Cinquanta L et al. Mineral essential elements for nutrition in different chocolate products. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2016 Nov;67(7):773-8.
  3. Nutritiondata.self.com. Cocoa, dry powder, unsweetened Nutrition Facts & Calories. [online] Available at: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/sweets/5471/2 [Accessed 17 Nov. 2017].