Cocoa. The seeds of the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, can be used to make cocoa powder, cocoa butter and cocoa extracts. The cacao tree is native to the Americas, and today the vast majority of cacao is grown in West Africa 1. In foods, cocoa is used as a flavoring agent. The combination of cocoa powder and cocoa butter make up pure, unsweetened chocolate. Cocoa contains the alkaloids caffeine and theobromine, along with tannins and flavonoid compounds that have antioxidant activity 2. Cocoa extract is approved for use as a food additive by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 3.

This ingredient can be found in the following products in United States:


  1. Leung A, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics. New York, NY: John Wiley, 1996.
  2. Steinberg FM, Bearden MM, Keen CL. Cocoa and chocolate flavonoids: Implications for cardiovascular health. J Am Diet.Assoc. 2003;103:215-23.
  3. Food and Drug Administration. EAFUS: A Food Additive Database. 10-17-2008. 12-4-2008.