Dry or non-fat cocoa solid is the component of cocoa beans remaining after cocoa butter, the fatty cocoa solid, is extracted from chocolate liquor – roasted cocoa beans that have been ground into a liquid state. Cocoa butter is 46% to 57% of the weight of cocoa beans and gives chocolate its characteristic melting properties. Cocoa powder is mostly the powdered form of the non-fat solids but usually retains 10% cocoa butter and is sold as an end product.
Natural cocoa powder has a light-brown color and an extractable pH of 5.3 to 5.8. The processed (alkalized) cocoa powder is darker in color, ranging from brownish red to nearly black, with a pH of 6.8 to 8.1. The alkalization process reduces bitterness and improves solubility, which is important for beverage product applications. All of these pH values are considered safe for food use.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||954 kJ (228 kcal)|
|†Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults. |
Source: USDA FoodData Central
Cocoa powder contains several minerals, including calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc. All these minerals are found in greater quantities in cocoa powder than either cocoa butter or chocolate liquor. Cocoa powder contains about 230 mg of caffeine and 2.057 g of theobromine per 100g, which are mostly absent from the other components of the cocoa bean. Cocoa powder also contains clovamide (N-caffeoyl-L-DOPA).
Cocoa powder is rich in flavonoids, a subset of polyphenols. The amount of flavonoids depends on the amount of processing and manufacturing the cocoa powder undergoes. Alkalization, also known as Dutch processing, causes its content of flavonoids to be substantially reduced.
In 2020, neuroscientists reported that a small randomized double-blind within-subject trial of healthy young adults shows that dietary flavanols from cocoa powder can improve brain oxygenation at suboptimal baseline cerebrovascular reactivity to CO2 during hypercapnia challenge and – in cases where the former measure could be improved and cognitive demand is high – cognitive performance.
Cocoa powders may contain cadmium, a toxic heavy metal and probable carcinogen, found naturally in high levels in the soil of some regions of cocoa-producing countries. The European Union has imposed a limit (as of 1 January 2019) for cadmium in cocoa powder of 0.6 µg per gram of cocoa powder and 0.8 µg per gram for chocolate with ≥ 50% total dry cocoa solids. In Canada, a daily serving of a natural health product must contain no more than 6 µg of cadmium for an individual weighing 150 pounds (68 kg) and 3 µg for a 75 lb (34 kg) individual. While the US government has not set a limit for cadmium in foods or health products, the state of California has established a maximum allowable daily level of oral cadmium exposure of 4.1 µg and requires products containing more than this amount per daily serving to bear a warning on the label. One investigation by an independent consumer testing laboratory found that seven of nine commercially available cocoa powders and nibs selected for testing contained more than 0.3 µg of cadmium per serving gram; five of these products exceeded the proposed EU limit of 0.6 µg per gram.
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