You may have heard the saying, “anything that tastes good is most likely bad for your health, and anything that is unappetizing is most likely good for your health.” Hopefully this article can change some opinions, at least as far as chocolate is concerned since increasing studies have shown that eating dark chocolate is beneficial to your health when eaten in moderation. Yes, you read that right, chocolate can actually be good for your body!
Health Benefits Of Chocolate
What do tea, red wine, certain fruits and vegetables and chocolate have in common? It is none other than flavonoids, a group of plant-derived antioxidants. Flavanol is the specific flavonoid found in cocoa, and has been shown to have anti-cancer properties and can neutralize cancer-causing free radicals.
Some benefits associated with chocolate include:
- Lowering blood pressure
- Improved vascular function
- Reduced risk of diabetes
- Reduced risk of stroke, due to potential blood thinning effects
- Reduced risk of heart attack
- Can elevate the mood by releasing endorphins (To learn more about natural mood boosters, read 10 Natural Mood Elevators To Lift Your Spirits.)
- Can help improve cognitive function in the elderly
- Also contains minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium (usually a by-product of the dairy add-ons in a chocolate bar)
Other benefits associated with chocolate, but need further study (they are still good to know) include:
- Improving existing skin conditions
- Help heal wounds (when applied topically in the form of cocoa butter)
- Act as an insect repellent (when applied topically in the form of cocoa oil)
- Lowering cholesterol
- Relieving constipation (if ingested in different forms other than a typical chocolate bar)
Choosing The Healthiest Chocolate
Before you dive into the chocolate isle of the candy store, take note that not all chocolates are created equal. The antioxidants beneficial to the body are only found in cocoa. Cocoa is the main component of chocolate and also gives it the dark color and semi-bitter aromatic taste. Therefore, the higher the cocoa content in the chocolate, the more flavanols are also present. That means the darker the chocolate is, the better. Ideally, choose a chocolate bar with at least 65 percent cocoa content or higher.
But why is white chocolate also called chocolate if it does not have any pigment like its healthier counterparts? White chocolate is usually made from cocoa butter, but does not contain actual cocoa solids, so it does not possess any antioxidant health properties that dark and milk chocolate have.
Also, when choosing your dark chocolates, take note of the ingredients. Make sure there are no added fats and that the chocolate is made with pure cocoa butter, not hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils. It is also smart to avoid any artificial additives and flavorings.
Enjoy Chocolate In Moderation
Despite the health benefits it proposes, chocolate should still be consumed in moderation. The delicious, decadent chocolate you see in the markets are usually commercial chocolates that contain additional fat, sugar and other ingredients to enhance the flavor and make them more palate-friendly. Pure cocoa is quite bitter and has a dry, chalky texture. Hence, those lovely looking pieces of creamy chocolate can actually be a calorie trap if you consume too many pieces.
Too much chocolate can contribute to weight gain and possibly lead to obesity, which becomes a platform for other potentially life threatening diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes (due to the added sugars). Chocolate naturally contains caffeine, so individuals who are sensitive to caffeine should eat it with moderation.
Hence, it is important to still treat chocolate as an indulgence and not as a health supplement. Be sure to take your chocolate in moderation at no more than 3 ounces, or 85 grams, per day, and be sure it is as dark as possible. It would also be helpful to add some additional exercise time to compensate for the indulgence.
Healthy Ways To Add Chocolate To Your Diet
Here are some tips to integrate chocolate into your diet:
- Always opt for dark chocolate over milk chocolate and milk chocolate over white chocolate.
- Remember to choose at least 65 percent cocoa content for dark chocolate.
- Cocoa powder is wonderful in Mexican-inspired cuisines (like mole sauces), so try a new recipe today!
- Dip your favorite fruits in dark chocolate for a wholesome treat.
- Make your s’mores with dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.
- Add a generous dash of cocoa powder into your hot chocolate drink.
- Replace your usual dessert with a small piece of dark chocolate. Eat it mindfully and enjoy.
- Be sure your chocolate is high-quality, organic and fair-traded. There’s nothing more pleasurable than knowing your indulgence also helps the earth.
Remember that too much of a good thing can be bad, so be sure to not use chocolate’s health benefits as an excuse to indulge in a popular treat.