Cocoa is a hot topic in research these days. Cocoa contains a complex array of compounds that have been shown to increase blood flow to the brain (important in delaying/preventing age-related dementia), improve blood vessel function (important in prevent heart disease and strokes), improve sensitivity to insulin (preventing/treating type 2 diabetes), and lower blood pressure!
A recent study showed that cocoa may be preventative against certain types of cancer.
Much of the research on this subject comes from observing the island-dwelling Kuna people. These people drink more than 5 cups of a cocoa-rich drink per day. They have very little cardiovascular disease and very little hypertension. When these peoples move to nearby Panama, they tend to drop cocoa from their diet and cardiovascular disease and hypertension rise accordingly. Cocoa is a rich source of antioxidants and of a beneficial group of compounds called flavanols. Cocoa is also a natural source of arginine--an amino acid that can be converted to nitric oxide, which has a relaxing effect on blood vessels.
Currently you can buy raw cocoa powder or nibs at health food stores. The powder can be mixed with whole, organic milk and agava nectar to produce the best hot cocoa you've ever had. The nibs can be sprinkled over yogurt or organic vanilla ice cream! Please note, regular processed chocolate does more harm than good! Learn how to use raw cocoa, or buy only organic dark chocolate!
Research on the Kuna People
Cocoa Brain Function