Are Cocoa Beans A Fruit?

In this article we will answer the question, “Are cocoa beans a fruit?” with an in-depth analysis about cocoa beans as a fruit, their appearance, taste, and texture as well as the health benefits of cocoa fruit. 

Are cocoa beans a fruit?

Yes, they are fruits. They are not vegetables, as different beans are. Cocoa beans are the seeds inside the product of the cocoa tree. The fruit of the cocoa tree is called a pod. Naturally, it’s a fruit and not a vegetable. A compartment for the seeds, which can be reaped, matured, and transformed into the dessert we know as chocolate.

Cocoa yield agroforestry systems is on average 75% of the cocoa production in monocultures (1).

The immature pods are purple and green. When completely ripe they turn a bright vibrant red and the green part becomes a bright yellow. Most cocoa pods have an average of 35 beans, it depends on the size. Each bean is surrounded by a mucilaginous pulp. Each seed or bean consists of two convoluted cotyledons and a small germ, all enclosed in the testa. The fruit, commonly known as a pod, contains the seeds embed- ded in mucilaginous pulp. This mucilage contains a germination inhibitor which delays germination inside the pod, but once the pod is opened the mucilage decomposes rapidly and germination begins because the seed has no dormant period (4). 

A cocoa case (natural product) has harsh rough skin around 3 cm thick. The Cocoa plant is considered a fruit plant. The actual bean is a seed and a seed is a nut, or, more specifically, a drupe, a stone fruit (4). So it comes from the nut inside the natural product. 

Nutritional Category of Cocoa Beans? 

Cocoa beans are not beans or vegetables, but the seeds of the product of the Theobroma cacao tree. The pod natural product is known as baccate-like (berry-like). As with the fruit of all cultivated plants, cocoa pods show a great deal of genetic variation. Ripe cocoa pods vary considerably in length from 10-32 cm and also in shape, surface texture and color. The shape varies from nearly spherical to cylindrical and the surface from warty and deeply furrowed to nearly smooth (4).

Is Cocoa A Nut Or Bean? 

Chocolate is a nut! All chocolate is produced using the enormous seed (nut) of the cocoa natural product. This nut is known as the cocoa bean or cocoa bean. Technically, cocoa beans are drupes (3). A drupe is an indehiscent fruit in which the fertilized embryo (seed or kernel) within a hardened endocarp (shell) is surrounded by a fleshy mesocarp (hull) and an exocarp (external skin).

Theobroma cacao is likewise called the cocoa tree and the cocoa tree is a little (4–8 m (13–26 ft) tall) evergreen tree in the family Malvaceae. Its seeds, cocoa beans, are used to make chocolate alcohol, cocoa solids, cocoa spread, and chocolate.

Appearance And Taste Of Cocoa Fruit

Cocoa fruit is long like a thin form of an American football, about the length of a grown-up’s hand, and it tends to be red to yellow.  The outside of the organic product is a hard shell, which you can cut with a serrated blade. 

Inside the shell, there are two various types of food, just one of which is used in making chocolate. One of these food sources is the seeds, organised in lines, each the size of an enormous bean, this is what produces chocolate. The pods are opened to release the beans, either by cutting with a machete or cracking with a simple wooden club. There are some 30 to 45 beans or seeds inside the pod attached to a central core or placenta. The beans are oval (or a plump almond shape) and covered in a sweet, white mucilaginous pulp. The beans are separated by hand and the placenta is removed (2).

Encompassing each seed and filling the remainder of the space in the fruit is the pulp which is white in colour and sweet in taste. Typically when individuals produce chocolate, they dispose of the fruit flesh or pulp. So when you eat chocolate you never taste it. The pulp which is discarded is delicious.

Each bean consists of two cotyledons (the nib) and a small germ or embryo, all enclosed in a skin or testa (the shell). Much of the food stored in the cotyledons consists of cocoa butter that amounts to about half the weight of the dry seed (2). 

What Does Cocoa Fruit Taste Like?

The flesh has a great complex fruity character, sweet and tart, with traces of citrus, mango, possibly pineapple. There’s a trace of chocolate flavour along with the fruity flavours of the cocoa pulp. The taste varies among different cultivars of cocoa, and the main variations that can be observed are related to the level of acidity and sweetness. For example, it is well known that Criollo and Scavina genotypes have very sweet pulp whereas the pulp of Trinitario and Forastero clones are generally more acidic (5).

The seed of the cocoa plant when eaten gives you an experience of tasting chocolate in its unadulterated, untamed, undiluted form. This stuff is incredible, it’s harsh, it’s not sweet by any means, but it has a rich chocolate/cocoa flavour.

Dry cocoa nibs are sold in the market but they don’t have the same nutty flavour and texture as the fresh ones. Not every person can deal with eating the seeds of this fruit. Most people truly appreciate sucking on the pulp of the fruit encompassing the seeds, however, when they bite on the seed, their eyes go wide and they need to let it out. Be that as it may, a few of us love raw cacao nibs.

Health Benefits

Let’s discuss the advantages of cocoa.

Improves mood

Munching on cocoa beans enhances mood and feelings. They not only have a thick and dense flavour but they also have a positive effect on an individual’s mood.

A number of theories have been put forward to account for the apparent mood-elevating properties of chocolate. It has been suggested that the carbohydrate in chocolate increases the ratio of tryptophan to other large amino acids in the blood, resulting in increased synthesis of brain serotonin. However this is unlikely since levels of protein in chocolate are too high for this mechanism to function and any potential effect on mood would involve a time delay whereas the actual effect of eating chocolate is almost immediate (2).

Good for heart health

Cocoa fruit is rich in antioxidant flavonoids which are good for heart health. So regular consumption of fruit is helpful in preventing heart diseases and improving heart health. Heart disease and its risk factors can produce inflammatory reactions and cocoa flavonoids have been shown to suppress pro-infl ammatory leukotrienes and increase anti-infl ammatory nitric oxide (2).

Blood thinner

One way that cocoa fruit protects the heart is due to its blood-thinning properties. Regular consumption may have significant effects on blood consistency which in turn prevents blood clotting. Platelet reactivity and aggregation enhance blood clotting and can lead to thrombosis. Cocoa flavanols can modulate platelet reactivity and reduce the tendency for platelets to aggregate (2).

Cocoa fruit is anti-aging

Cocoa fruit has antioxidants anthocyanin which protects cell damage caused by oxidation which would otherwise lead to premature ageing. Like many polyphenols, flavonoids have antioxidant activity and are able to help the body’s cells counteract the damage caused by free radicals. It is known that cocoa and chocolate have potent antioxidant activity comparable or greater than other antioxidant-rich foods such as green and black tea, red wine, blueberry, garlic and strawberry (2).

Decrease caloric intake

Cocoa fruits are fulfilling and when hot cocoa is taken before meals it can help reduce appetite and overall food intake. This is helpful in weight loss.

Cocoa fruit is energising

Nibbling on cocoa can help the muscles relax and make you feel energised by reducing fatigue. Because of its rich magnesium content, cocoa fruit can help improve your energy levels and keep your blood pressure in check.

Methylxanthines, including caffeine, theobromine and theophylline, are a group of biologically active compounds that occur naturally in many common foods and beverages. The individual compounds are thought to have similar physiological effects in the body, including stimulation of the central nervous system, cardiac muscle and skeletal muscle, relaxation of smooth muscle (such as bronchial muscle), and diuretic effects (2).

Healthy hair with cocoa fruit

Cacao contains sulphur which gives your hair that additional sheen and gives you solid nails. Indirectly flavonoids increase absorption from the alimentary tract of vitamin C and protect functions conducted by it. It was presented that flavonoids contained in green tea stimulate growth of hair follicles by lengthening their anagen phase (6).

Healthy skin

Cacao shields the skin from getting sun-damaged. It is high in antioxidants, consequently shields our skin from free radical damage (7). A review has stated that whoever ate around 20 grams of cacao for quite some time could endure the sun rays for a longer duration. Thereby protecting against sunburn.

Other FAQs about Cocoa beans that you may be interested in.

What are the best cocoa beans in the world?

Conclusion

In this short article, we have answered the question, Are cocoa beans a fruit?  With an in-depth analysis of cocoa fruit, their appearance, taste, and texture as well as the health benefits of cocoa fruits.

References

  1. Niether, Wiebke, et al. Cocoa agroforestry systems versus monocultures: a multi-dimensional meta-analysis. Environ Res Lett, 2020, 15, 104085. 
  2. Beckett, Steve T., ed. Industrial chocolate manufacture and use. John Wiley & Sons, 2011.  
  3. Crane, J.H. et al., COCOA (CHOCOLATE BEAN) GROWING IN THE FLORIDA HOME LANDSCAPE. 2021. University of Florida. 
  4. Wood, George Alan Roskruge, and R. A. Lass. Cocoa. John Wiley & Sons, 2008. 
  5. Eskes, Albertus, et al. Evidence on the effect of the cocoa pulp flavour environment during fermentation on the flavour profile of chocolates. 17th International Cocoa Research Conference. 2012. 
  6. Goluch-Koniuszy, Zuzanna Sabina. Nutrition of women with hair loss problem during the period of menopause. Menopause Rev, 2016, 15, 56-61.
  7. Khurana, Reevika, and Shweta Singh. Formulation of a herbal bar with muskmelon and sunflower seed. The Pharma Innovation Journal 2019; 8, 81-85.