Dark Chocolate Health Benefits – 5 Reasons to Eat Cacao

Who doesn’t like to indulge in silky smooth and creamy chocolate? I’m not too proud to say that I’m a chocoholic through and through, therefore I decided to look further into this creamy indulgence to find a good excuse to carry on – not that I need one!  And luckily, the dark chocolate health benefits are many, and I found 5 Great reasons to add cacao to my diet every day be it in the form of dark chocolate, cocoa powder, healthy homemade chocolate, added to cakes, puddings, or even my favorite quinoa breakfast bowls.

Yep, I can find reasons to put chocolate everywhere and I still consider myself a health food junkie! Why? Because thankfully if we eat the 70% minimum cacao solids type, and also exert some kind of control with it (that is possible) then it can be part of your every day healthy eating plan and won’t have any negative effects.

What Type of Chocolate can I Eat?

face covered in chocolate

The average person eats about 12 pounds of chocolate per year (me more), but most people are eating the low quality, high sugar, high fat versions. These usually contain so little actual cocoa powder that they have no benefits at all and in fact swing in the complete opposite direction, making them just another 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 when you go are buying chocolate, and most quality brands will tell you on the packaging how much cacao is in their chocolate, so it’s easy to see at a glance what you’re actually getting .

Cacao Content

You can start yourself at 70% cacao, then build up a bit higher as your taste buds become accustomed to it. I actually prefer 80-85% these days, simply because I’m not craving the sugar in chocolate anymore, however, recently I come across 100% cacao chocolate which I was convinced would be quite terrible, but actually tasted quite nice. It made me realise that cacao actually has a sweetish taste even without sugar, but that’s probably because I’m so used to it too.

Buy Organic Chocolate where Possible

Try to buy organic chocolate when you can as those cacao beans are notorious for being sprayed with huge amounts of fertilisers and pesticides. And it definitely won’t harm to buy some of the lovely new ‘raw’ chocolates that are now on the market, as their beans haven’t been roasted so they still have all their wonderful nutrients and antioxidants intact.

Alternatively, you could buy a good quality cocoa powder and make your own hot chocolate, cakes, or whatever else you fancy making a chocolate flavoured version of. Later in the post I shall include an easy recipe for my homemade, super healthy, high antioxidant chocolate that contains just a few simple ingredients but is still indulgent – beware – it’s highly addictive!

1. ANTI AGING SUPER FOOD

beautiful skin woman

The high antioxidant content of dark chocolate helps to fight free radical damage in the body, making it a great (and tasty) part of your natural beauty regime. This is good news because these annoying free radicals steal healthy electrons from our cell’s structures, causing havoc and damaging DNA as they go. This in turn accelerates the aging process, which of course, can eventually leads to degenerative disease an all the other things that go with aging in general.

Cacao is specifically high in the antioxidant antholyanidin, and also epicatechins. These can help negate aging related problems by disarming those free radicals before they can do too much damage.

Healthy Lifestyle

It stands to reason that you can’t rely on dark chocolate alone to delay the aging process, but it IS high in antioxidants, and these are a major player in keeping you looking and feeling as youthful as possible. You will most certainly need to live an all round healthy lifestyle that involves a number of different factors for the best results, such as exercise, good quality sleep, keeping stress to a minimum, weight down, and eating lots of high antioxidant, heart healthy plant based foods.

2. 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 – which means that you can get all your antioxidants in a seriously tasty treat! 

3. HEART HEALTH

Flavenols have a positive effect on heart health by improving the flow of blood to both the heart and the brain, and also helping to lower blood pressure. These flavenols help make blood platelets less sticky and harder to clot, therefore reducing the risk of both blood clots and strokes.

4. DARK CHOCOLATE AND WEIGHT LOSS

female toned stomach

For weight loss purposes you really will need to be consuming very dark chocolate, at least over 80% cacao solids, if not higher. Fortunately, you can buy chocolate up to 100% cacao, but you don’t necessarily need to go that high if you find it too bitter. Just go as high as you can because most dark chocolate still contains sugar, which is of course, is the enemy of any weight loss plan.

Moderate amounts of dark chocolate can help you lose weight in these ways:-

  • IT’S SATIATING – This one speaks for itself: the creamy and silky smooth texture of chocolate is so indulgent that you feel like you have had a real treat. It lights up the pleasure centers in you brain which release dopamine to make you feel good, as if on a natural high. This helps bust cravings for more unhealthy foods.
  • HELPS LOWERS STRESS LEVELS – Dark chocolate reduces cortisol (which is your stress hormone) levels, which means you will be less inclined to over eat or emotionally eat. When you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out your body will be more inclined to crave sugary snacks.
  • CAN LOWER BLOOD SUGAR – Cacao is high in antioxidants and phenols that help to keep your blood sugar stable and your body in fat burning mode. And stable blood sugar not only means less cravings for junk foods, but also keeps dangerous belly fat to a minimum.
  • ENERGY BOOST – 40 grams of dark chocolate before a workout really gives you an energy boost. I often have a small bar of high cacao content chocolate before a workout and it works! I think it’s a combination of the fats and slight stimulation from the caffeine that does it, either way, it’s a delicious way to start a workout that’s made even better by the fact that you’re just about to burn the whole lot of too!

5. CAN HELP LOWER CHOLESTEROL

Dark chocolate also contains cocoa butter, which in itself is a heart healthy monounsaturated fat. There have been many studies conducted on the effect of polyphenols in dark chocolate and heart health, including its ability to lower bad cholesterol and other areas of heart health such as  lower calcified plaque levels in the arteries, lower risk of heart disease.

It’s worth noting that these are only observational studies only so there is no definitive proof, but considering that it’s well-known that monounsaturated fat and plant phenols are good for the heart, then it definitely won’t hurt to indulge in a couple of squares a day as part of your general healthy lifestyle.

My Homemade 5 Minute Healthy Chocolate

dark chocolate in trays

Ingredients:

  • 1 part 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, stevia or coconut sugar because syrups will just sink to the bottom; plus the former two are low GI sugars. I also like to make it extra fine by giving it a blast in a coffee or spice grinder, ideally the texture of icing sugar so the chocolate doesn’t turn out grainy.
  • 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 that would taste good in a chocolate as long as it’s healthy. Go wild with it, and add lots of lovely extra nutritious ingredients.

Method: 

  • Heat the coconut oil gently in a saucepan until just melted, but not too hot. It’s important to keep nutrients intact by not over heating these delicate ingredients.
  • Add all other ingredients and stir until smooth.
  • Put into a tin pre-lined with foil of any size or shape. I use a bigger tin as I like my chocolate to be thinner and have that ‘snap'(it’s all about the snap for me!).
  • Place in the fridge or freezer until.
  • Enjoy with a nice cup of tea if you’re British 🙂
  • It’s great to eat from frozen also.

Here’s another homemade recipe you may want to try from YouTube if you want to try another version.

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Stefanie Taylor
Plant based eating is set to EXPLODE in 2019; not just for health reasons, but also to help keep our beautiful planet thriving. I have lived this healthful lifestyle for over 2 years, which is the reason why zestforever was born to share my experiences, trials and errors, how I overcame them, and how to turn to this lifestyle in such a way that you will thrive too.

I have studied, tried and tested healthy foods, superfoods and diets for over 25 years, but nothing has come close to giving me the buzz of wellness that plant based eating has. To expand my knowledge further I have also studied and worked as a Sports Nutritional Advisor, Nutritional Therapist, and Clinical Weight Loss Advisor - all of which can tie in with the plant based diet.

This website is not intended to treat or diagnose any medical diseases or illnesses. It's merely meant as a way of showing you how to boost your health through the eating of more nutritious plant foods in place of junk foods.

I am grateful for your support, and I hope that the tips and guides you find here will help to guide you on your own plant based journey.

20 thoughts on “Dark Chocolate Health Benefits – 5 Reasons to Eat Cacao”

  1. I never really thought about making my own dark chocolate from 100% cocoa but that makes complete sense. Plus stevia is better for you than sugar so it’s a win win. What do you think the best 100% cocoa is? Do you have a preference? I definitely need to do that because my work likes to offer sugar all day long for some reason and I definitely need another option!! Lol

    • Hi Daniel, I know how hard it is to avoid sugar in this world ha ha. And it’s just so hard to resist as well. If you are going to make your own cacao then I would go for organic powder. There is a brand called Green and Blacks had do a good cocoa powder. Or, even better but more expensive is raw cocoa powder which you can get in most health food stores or online. The raw stuff has all it’s nutrients in tact so therefore has even better health benefits. Yes, go ahead and make your own chocolate, you will love It! One thing with it though is it really is best left in the fridge at all times as it melts more easily than normal chocolate (probably because it hasn’t been tempered). Good luck.

  2. Hi Stefanie, I seem to have trouble getting to your article, just to let you know.

    But I will come back to your website because I would love to read about the health benefits of dark chocolate because I am a fitness advocate and I emphasize how certain foods are good for us.

    • Hi Marques, sorry about that, my site is back up and running now so would be happy if you could take a look and leave a comment. You will find it very interesting if you are a fitness advocate…as am I.

  3. Hello, so who says that life cannot be a chocolate party?? Grin. I have a question though, I had to give up chocolate about 20 years ago because of the caffeine content. Does the organic raw still have natural caffeine levels?
    That was such a great article. I so like reading your posts. Many thanks! In peace and gratitude, Ariel

    • Hi Ariel, that is a great question because I find I cannot eat more than about 50 grams a day due to the caffeine content, and I would definitely advise against eating too much dark chocolate in the evening, just as with tea and coffee. In fact this is such a good point that I am going to go in a revise the post to include this information.

      And yes, the organic raw still has caffeine, but I find it doesn’t affect me in the same way as the normal stuff. Somehow because it’s in a more natural form it seems to process differently in the body but I have no evidence of this, just my own experiences. So you may want to give it a try for yourself, just start with a little and see how you feel.

      I’m pretty sure, as with most things, it is a case of starting with a small amount as you will be more sensitive until you get used to it.

  4. I have always been mindful of chocolate with the fear that it might have health risks. Now I know better, happy to enjoy my yum yum chocolate. But is there a limit to how much I could have a day?

    • Hi Peter, in answer to your question about how much you should have I would say yes, there is a limit as cacao, although high in antioxidants and all the other wonderful things discussed in the post, it also contains caffeine, and so you should take this into consideration if you have problems sleeping or with anxiety issues.

      My advice is to not consume it in the evenings and just eat in moderation. I definitely wouldn’t eat more than about 50 grams a day of the really dark stuff.

  5. Thanks for telling us more about chocolate. It’s actually awesome the number of good properties that it has. Making my own chocolate seems like a great idea. I think I’ll follow your recipe.

    • Hi benjamin, thanks for reading. Yes chocolate is just Gods gift to us if you ask me which is why I like to make my own healthier versions. Yes, definitely give it a go, you won’t regret it if you do I’m sure. Let me know how you get on.

  6. Wow! I like your 5-minute chocolate recipe. I have all ingredients and I am going to make this chocolate. I tend to limit intake of chocolate but there are so many benefits of dark chocolate that it seems better to eat it than avoid it. Thanks for the great post!

    • Hi Blanka, yes I’m a self confessed chocaholic which is why I need to make sure that I make healthy versions of the stuff. It’s just so addictive, but in a good way. Yes, definitely go for it and make this homemade version. I would love to know how you get on!

  7. Hi Sarah, yes dark chocolate is awesome! I have a bar of it every day, I am an addict, what can I say. It also gives me a boost of energy which is why I often crave it in the afternoon when I have that dip. Glad you enjoyed the article and thanks for your comment.

  8. I followed the chocolate to your post, and appreciate the points you make! I want to follow up with that recipe, but would need to buy the cocoa powder, first. Thank you!

  9. You had me at homemade chocolate! In my last home there was a very popular chocolate shop that made only raw chocolate candies…they were outrageously delicious. One in particular, a chocolate covered fig, usually sold out by noon. I think I’m finally gonna try to make it myself with the help of your recipe. thanks!

    • I know, it’s definitely ALL about the chocolate ha ha. I love it so much too which is why I am glad I can have it still on my healthy eating plan. You should definitely try and make your own Penelope as I’m sure you will love it like I do. Good luck!

  10. Hi Bill, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I’m very fortunate that dark chocolate has so many health benefits as I am a self confessed chocoholic ha ha. At least we don’t have to feel to guilty about some of life’s little pleasures at least.

  11. Thanks Stefanie for sharing this. I love chocolate! Glad to know it’s a good thing to love in moderation, of course.

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