Chocolate might feel sinful, but unsweetened cocoa powder can give you your chocolate fix without the guilt. Made by grinding the solids left over after fatty cocoa liquor is extracted from crushed cocoa beans, unsweetened cocoa powder imparts rich chocolate flavor with virtually no sugar and little fat. It also contains essential nutrients and helps fight chronic disease. Reach for natural cocoa powder over Dutch-processed or alkalized cocoa for optimal health benefits, recommends Colorado State University.
Adding unsweetened cocoa power to your food boosts your fiber intake. A 2-tablespoon serving contains 3.6 grams of fiber -- approximately 14 percent of the recommended daily intake for women or 9 percent for men, according to the Institute of Medicine. In addition to helping you feel full after a meal, fiber fights constipation to keep you regular. It also supports good cardiovascular health, helping to reduce high cholesterol, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Unsweetened cocoa powder provides you with copper, an essential mineral. Copper helps you produce mature collagen, a protein that keeps your connective tissues strong. Consuming copper also helps support your metabolism because it activates enzymes you need to produce energy. It also activates enzymes you need for nervous system function, and helps you make melanin, a pigment found in your eyes, skin and hair. Consuming 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder provides you with 410 micrograms of copper, or 45 percent of the daily recommended intake, according to the Institute of Medicine.
Unsweetened cocoa powder provides a source of phytonutrients -- plant compounds that benefit your health. The flavanols in cocoa help lower your blood pressure, and improve blood vessels and blood cell function, according to a study published in the "Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2008. A review, published in the journal "Nutrition and Cancer" indicates that two types of phytonutrients -- catechins and procyanidins -- might also offer cancer-fighting benefits. While the benefits of unsweetened cocoa powder for fighting disease require more investigation, consuming cocoa as part of a balanced diet might help keep you healthy.
Consuming More Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
The beneficial antioxidants in unsweetened cocoa cause it to have a bitter flavor, so you should make unsweetened cocoa powder more palatable by pairing it with natural sources of sugar or healthy sweeteners. Add 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder to your fruit smoothies -- it pairs especially well with smoothies made with bananas or all-natural peanut butter. Alternatively, combine unsweetened cocoa powder, oats and berries for a chocolate porridge, or make your own hot cocoa by heating non-fat milk, unsweetened cocoa powder and a healthy sweetener, such as stevia, on the stove.