Digestibility of Cocoa
We have noted above the high percentage of nutrients which cocoa contains, and the research conducted by J. Forster shows that these nutrients are easily assimilated. Forster found that the fatty and mineral constituents of cocoa are both completely digested, and the nitrogenous constituents are digested in the same proportion as in finest bread, and more completely than in bread of average quality. One very striking fact was revealed by his researches, namely, that the consumption of cocoa increases the digestive power for other foods which are taken at the same time, and that this increase is particularly evident with milk. The consumption of cocoa from the point of view of health leaves nothing to be desired. Cocoas containing a high percentage of cacao butter are preferable to those which contain low percentages, and that a 30 per cent. butter content meets all requirements. It is worthy of note that 28 to 30 per cent. is the quantity of butter found in ordinary high-class cocoas. As experts are liable to disagree, and it is almost possible to prove anything by a judicious selection from their writings, it may be well to give an extract from some modern text book as more nearly expressing the standard opinion of the times. In the better cocoas the greater part of the fat is removed by heat and pressure. In this form cocoa may be looked upon as almost an ideal food, as it contains proteids, fats, and carbohydrates in roughly the right proportions. Prepared with milk and sugar it forms a highly nutritious and valuable stimulating beverage.
Stimulating Property of Cocoa
The mild stimulating property which cocoa possesses is due to the presence of the two substances, theobromine and caffein. The presence of theobromine is peculiar to cocoa, but caffein is a stimulating principle which also occurs in tea and coffee. Whilst in the quantities in which they are present in cocoa (about 1.5 per cent. of theobromine and 0.6 per cent. of caffein) they act only as agreeable stimulants, in the pure condition, as white crystalline powders, they are powerful curative agents. Caffein is well known as a specific for nervous headaches, and as a heart stimulant and diuretic. Theobromine is similar in action, but has the advantage for certain cases, that it has much less effect on the central nervous system, and for this reason it is a very valuable medicine for sufferers from heart dropsy, and as a tonic for senile heart.
Treated cocoa is the most digestible, experts are not in agreement as to which is the more valuable foodstuff, the pure untouched cocoa, or that which is treated during its manufacture with alkaline salts. The cocoa so treated is generally described as “soluble,” although its only claim to this name is that the mineral salts in the cocoa are rendered more soluble by the treatment. It is also sometimes incorrectly described as containing alkali, but actually no alkali is present in the cocoa either in a free state or as carbonate; the potassium exists in the form of phosphates or combinations of organic acids, that is to say, in the ideal form in which these bodies occur in foods of animal and vegetable origin.