Who doesn’t like to indulge in silky smooth and creamy chocolate? It can be pure heaven, and I for one have no intention of giving it up…EVER! Thankfully, we shouldn’t feel too guilty about this pleasure, and if we eat the 70% minimum cacao solids type then dark chocolate and health can be a marriage made in heaven! Read on and find out about the little known 5 dark chocolate health benefits that will give you an excuse to indulge any time you please.
DARK CHOCOLATE AND HEALTH
The average person eats about 12 pounds of chocolate per year (me more), but most people are eating the low quality, high sugar and high fat versions. Many of these contain so little actual cocoa powder that they have no benefits at all, and in fact swing in the complete opposite direction making them a junk food.
This is definitely not the healthy and antioxidant rich variety that I am going to talk about in this post. For starters, you should aim for at least 70% minimum cacao solids; most quality brands will tell you on the packaging how much cacao is in their chocolate.
You can start yourself at 70% then build up a bit higher as your taste buds become accustomed to it. I actually prefer 80-85% these days because I’m not craving the sugar in chocolate anymore, and only recently I come across 100% cacao chocolate which I was convinced would be quite terrible but actually tasted, well… nice! Cacao actually has a sweetish taste even without sugar but that’s probably because I’m so used to it.
Try to buy organic chocolate where possible, as cacao beans are notorious for being sprayed with huge amounts of fertilisers and pesticides. It definitely won’t harm to buy some of the lovely new ‘raw‘ chocolates that are out there, these haven’t been roasted and so have all their nutrients intact.
You could also buy yourself a good quality cocoa powder and make hot chocolate, cakes or whatever else you fancy putting chocolate into. Below I shall post an easy recipe for my homemade, super healthy chocolate that contains just a few ingredients. Beware – it’s addictive!
5 DARK CHOCOLATE HEALTH BENEFITS
1. ANTI AGING SUPER FOOD
The massive antioxidant content of dark chocolate helps to fight free radicals in the body. This is good news because free radicals steal healthy electrons from our cells structures and cause havoc, damaging DNA as they go, causing premature aging and eventually the onset of disease.
Cacao is specifically high in the antioxidant antholyanidin, and also epicatechins. These stop all this bad stuff from happening by disarming those free radicals before they can do damage.
2. HEART HEALTH
Flavenols have a positive effect on hear health by improving the flow of blood to both the heart and the brain, and helping to lower blood pressure. These flavenols also make blood platelets less sticky and harder to clot, therefore reducing the risk of both blood clots and strokes.
3. LOWER CHOLESTEROL
Dark chocolate also contains cocoa butter, which in itself is a heart healthy monounsaturated fat. There have been many studies on the effect of polyphenols in dark chocolate and heart health, including its ability to lower bad cholesterol.
4. SHARPER BRAIN POWER
Studies suggest that the flavenols in dark chocolate increase blood flow to cerebral matter, making it good for memory, focus, and cognitive performance. Dark chocolate is actually HIGHER in antioxidants than super fruit powders such as acai, blueberry, cranberry and even pomegranate.
Pairing super foods like cacao (though probably not together) with other antioxidant rich super food powders such as my personal favorite ‘Dr. Schulze’s green super food powder‘ will give you a full spectrum of different antioxidants, phytonutrients and nutrients for good all round health and vitality.
And there’s more good news – these same flavenols are also found in red wine and tea, suggesting that not all good things in life are bad for us – providing we don’t go over board of course!
5. POTENTIAL FOR THE TREATMENT AND PREVENTION OF CANCER
Although the studies in this field are still emerging and with good prospects, it stands to reason that with its impressive amounts of antioxidants and flavenoids, dark chocolate may play a role in the cancer protection and treatment field…as if you needed another reason to carry on eating this fantastic treat daily.
For more antioxidant rich Superfoods please visit my page ‘Best Budget Superfoods‘ where you will find out just how easy it can be to transform your diet and health by just making a few simple swaps.
MY HOMEMADE 5 MINUTE HEALTHY CHOCOLATE
- 1 part extra virgin coconut oil
- 1 part good quality 100% cocoa powder (preferably raw cocoa powder for super health benefits)
- Healthy sweetener to taste. I use Xylitol or stevia because syrups will just sink to the bottom. Plus these are low GI sugars.
- Tiny pinch of sea salt
Other optional ingredients of your choice include nuts, seeds, desiccated coconut (my favorite version), dried fruits OR anything else you can possibly imagine. Go wild with it.
Method: Heat coconut oil gently in a saucepan until just melted, but not too hot. It is important to keep nutrients intact by not over heating these products. Add all other ingredients and stir until smooth. Put into a tin pre-lined with tin foil of any size or shape. I use a bigger tin as I like my chocolate to be thinner and have that ‘snap‘. Put in fridge or freezer until set and enjoy.
It’s great to eat from frozen also.