Before you run to grab the closest piece of chocolate and stuff it into your mouth, take a look at the ingredients and if sugar, hydrogenated oil or anything else that sounds like a synthetic substance is listed in the ingredients, put that chocolate down! There are health benefits in that chocolate you were about to devour but it was also packaged with a bunch of unhealthy attributes that just aren’t worth consuming unless done in moderation. Fear not, there are ways you can enjoy Chocolate on a regular basis that not only tastes great but also has excellent health benefits without all the negatives.
If you didn’t know already, the Chocolate we are familiar with comes from Cocoa, in the form of beans. What’s news to me is that Cocoa is actually a fruit, yes you read that right. Cocoa Beans come from the fruit of the Cacao Tree (pronounced “ka-Cow”) which grows in the rainforests of South America. The Cocoa Bean is technically a nut or seed but is commonly referred to as a bean. Dried Cocoa Beans are called Cocoa Nibs which you can find in Organic Markets and some traditional Grocery Stores. Cocoa Butter is a fatty substance derived from the fruit of the Cocoa Tree. Cocoa Butter is commonly used when making chocolate but the traditional color, flavor and the greatest health benefits come from the Cocoa Bean. A dark chocolate bar is made from Cocoa Powder mixed with Cocoa Butter and Sugar. A piece of dark chocolate with little to no sugar is an excellent option for consuming chocolate with health benefits without all the negatives. Although, I am personally not a fan of that type of dark chocolate. To me it’s like eating a fat free version of a snack that I love, just not the same.
Before I get into how to consume chocolate daily, I need to cover what the health benefits of chocolate are and why they are so important to your health.
Health Benefits of Chocolate:
- Raw Cocoa has the highest antioxidant value of all the natural foods on our planet.
- Cocoa Powder has nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine and up to three times the amount in green tea.
- Recent studies have shown a link between the Flavanols in Cocoa and Cardiovascular Health, reducing the risks of blood clots, heart attacks and strokes.
- Cocoa contains anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties.
- It is also a good source of calcium, manganese, sulphur, iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, potassium and some B vitamins.
- A high content level of sulfur is also in Cocoa. Sulfur has numerous health benefits including detoxifying the liver, supporting healthy functioning of the pancreas and helping to build strong nails, hair and beautiful skin.
- Cocoa contains Tryptophan, best known for making you tired after eating Turkey, which makes the neurotransmitter Serotonin. Serotonin makes us happy and contains many other health benefits.
- The brain also benefits from the consumption of chocolate because it contains neurotransmitters such as dopamine, phenylethylamine (PEA), anandamide and MAO Inhibitors.
- Consuming dark chocolate has been indicated to increase your sensitivity to insulin, a protective affect against diabetes. Eating sugar with chocolate obviously negates these benefits.
- Dark chocolate can also help you lose weight because Cocoa contains appetite-suppressant properties.
- Cocoa Butter in its natural form is fattening but with all the right fats, heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, oleic acid. Also found in Olive Oil and is believed to raise the level of “good” cholesterol, High Density Lipid (HDL) Cholesterol.
The best way to eat chocolate regularly, in my opinion, is to mix it with foods that are also beneficial to your health. Just to be clear, the three forms of chocolate that should be consumed regularly are raw and unprocessed Cocoa Powder, Cocoa Nibs and Dark Chocolate with little to no sugar. Even though I recommend that you eat these healthy forms of chocolate daily, anything eaten at unnaturally high quantities is never a good idea and let’s face it, I am not a doctor. Ok, now that I can’t be sued let’s get into how you can consume these forms of chocolate without being completely grossed out.
Methods of Consumption:
- My favorite way to indulge in healthy chocolate is to blend it into a smoothie. Add some Cocoa Powder or Cocoa Nibs and blend it with some fruit and Almond Milk, delicious!
- Some people eat Cocoa Nibs raw, I think you need to be hardcore to do that.
- You can melt healthy dark chocolate just like any other chocolate and eat it with healthy snacks, fondue anyone?
- You can also eat a small square of dark chocolate per day, with little to no sugar. Again not my cup of tea but you might like it.
- The best suggestion I can give is to search for recipes that contain one of the healthy forms of chocolate and find something you can enjoy eating regularly.
Now go out there and enjoy this wonderful fruit, I just think that sounds funny, that can be so beneficial to your health and make sure everyone knows what you now know about Chocolate.