Chocolate and cocoa are two of the high potassium foods. It is a surprise to many that they are high in potassium. The commonly mentioned high potassium foods are vegetables and fruits, especially bananas. However, cocoa is one of the foods highest in potassium. In one serving it can have 500 mg of potassium. It is also low in sodium, containing only 5 mg in the same amount of cocoa that gives you 500 mg of potassium. There are differences in the types of chocolate and cocoa that can make a big difference in their effects on the body though.
Cocoa Bean Processing
The method of processing the cocoa bean into chocolate and cocoa makes one of the biggest differences in its effect on health. Manufacturers produce two basic types of chocolate and cocoa – Broma processed, also called natural, and Dutch processed.
Broma processing removes the fat from the bean by warming the beans above the melting point of the fat. Dutched processing adds potassium carbonate after the Broma processing. This mellows the taste, neutralizes the acid, and increases the solubility.
Effect Of Processing On Cooking
Each type requires a different cooking process. With natural chocolate (the most common in the U.S.), you need to add baking soda to get a leavening effect. Dutched chocolate will not leaven with the addition of baking soda. And most recipes call for baking powder or the addition of an acid, such as orange juice. Most of the time, a recipe will tell you which type of chocolate or cocoa to use. And it will tell you whether to use baking soda, baking powder or nothing.
Baking soda and baking powder add a great deal of sodium. Thus they reduce, or even eliminate, the beneficial effects of potassium on bone, blood pressure, and cardiovascular health. However, if you use the cocoa or chocolate for food that is not baked, you eliminate the concern about sodium.
Dutching makes a big difference in the potassium content. But the other details of processing make a difference too. The biggest effect is in the fat and sugar content. A diagram of the process from harvest to final product is at http://www.grenadachocolate.com/tour/.
There are some aspects of cocoa and chocolate related to the fat and sugar content that make limited intake desirable. More than half the fat content of chocolate and cocoa is saturated fat. So you should limit your intake of those with a high fat content. Dry cocoa powder has anywhere from 1/2 to 1/4 the fat content of chocolate. This allows a greater consumption.
Processing often adds sugar to both chocolate and cocoa. But only a minimal amount of sugar is in the unsweetened varieties. The caloric density of chocolate is quite high also. Three and a half ounces of chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa solids and cocoa butter has as much as 600 calories. Because of its lower fat and sugar content, unsweetened cocoa powder will have only about 220 calories in the same amount of powder.
One of the great health effects of cocoa and chocolate is the antioxidant effect. The cocoa bean is rich in flavanols, polyphenols, and procyanidins. Dutching reduces the flavanol content somewhat. But even after Dutching, cocoa remains one of the high antioxidant foods. Although Dutched cocoa has a slight reduction in flavanol content, the amount of flavanols and other antioxidants remains high.
Four tablespoons of unsweetened Dutched cocoa powder added to a smoothie adds over 500 mg of potassium. And it adds only 25 calories, less than 3 grams of total fat (1.5 grams saturated), 4 grams of protein, and less than 0.5 grams of sugar. Make the smoothie with bananas, milk, ice cream, ice milk or frozen yogurt. Now you have one of the truly high potassium foods. You will get 1/4 or more of the daily recommended amount of potassium. It's a great way to start the day, and quick to make, too.