Who doesn’t like to indulge in some silky smooth and creamy chocolate every now and then? But, could it be that this luxurious treat is actually be good for us?
Let’s take a deeper look into this creamy indulgence to find a good excuse to carry on with our illicit love affair with the unique cacao bean.
Fortunately for you chocoholics, the dark chocolate health benefits are many.
In fact, there are 5 great reasons to eat cacao in moderation every day. This could be in the form of a dark chocolate bar, cocoa powder, homemade chocolate, our healthier Devil’s food cake, puddings, or even our favourite quinoa breakfast bowls.
How Much Dark Chocolate Should You Eat A Day?
The average person eats about 12 pounds of chocolate per year…(ahem), but most people are eating the low quality, high sugar, high fat versions. These unhealthy chocolates usually contain so little actual cocoa powder that it has no benefits at all.
This is definitely NOT the healthy and antioxidant rich variety that we are going to talk here. In fact, this sugary stuff is not even real chocolate!
Real chocolate can be eaten daily, up to around 30-60 g a day if it’s the high cacao content type.
For starters, you should aim for at least 70% minimum cacao solids when you are buying your chocolate. Most quality brands will tell you on the packaging how much cacao is in their chocolate, therefore it’s easy to see at a glance what you’re actually getting.
What is cacao content?
Cacao content is the amount of actual pure bean cacao solids are in the chocolate. This is a mix of cacao liquor, cacao bean and cacao butter – all parts of the bean itself. You will se the cacao content percentages on most chocolate bars, even the high sugar versions.
You can start yourself at a 70% cacao chocolate and get the benefits. Then build up a bit higher as your taste buds become accustomed to it. And, they will.
Many cacao beans actually has a sweetish taste even without sugar, depending on the variety and where they are from. You will find that different brands may differ tremendously and you will need to source out something that suits your taste buds.
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. Raw means their beans haven’t been roasted, so they still have all their wonderful nutrients and antioxidants in tact.
Alternatively, you could buy a good quality cocoa powder and make your own hot chocolate, decadent and healthy chocolate muffins, delicious, Devil’s food chocolate cake or whatever else you fancy making a chocolate flavoured version of.
Later in the post we shall include an easy recipe for our homemade, super healthy, high antioxidant chocolate. It contains just a few simple ingredients, but is still super indulgent. BEWARE – it’s highly delicious!
Dark Chocolate Health Benefits – 5 Reasons to Eat Cacao
1. ANTI AGING SUPER FOOD
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, eventually and possibly leading to degenerative disease an all the other problems that can go with aging in general.
Eating lots of antioxidant rich plant foods, as well as cacao, may help negate oxidative damage.
Cacao is specifically high in the antioxidant antholyanidin and also epicatechins. These antioxidants can help negate aging related problems by disarming those pesky free radicals before they can do too much damage.
Living A 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.
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.
This 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, 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
For weight loss purposes, you really will need to be consuming very dark chocolate of at least 80% cacao solids.
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. Most dark chocolate still contains sugar, which 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 centres in you brain. This in turn release dopamine to make you feel good – like a natural high. This helps bust those cravings for more unhealthy foods.
- HELPS LOWERS STRESS LEVELS – Dark chocolate reduces cortisol (your stress hormone) levels. Lower stress levels means you will be less inclined to over eat;0r emotionally eat. When you’re 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. It’s a combination of the fats and slight stimulation from the caffeine that does the trick. 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. It also may help other areas of heart health, such as lowering calcified plaque levels in the arteries.
It’s worth noting that these are 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 of dark chocolate a day as part of your general healthy lifestyle.
Homemade 5 Minute Healthy Chocolate
- 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 (caution: Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs). You can make it extra fine by giving it a blast in a coffee or spice grinder; ideally to 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 favourite version) and 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.
- 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. Use a bigger tin as I like my chocolate to be thinner and have that ‘snap’.
- Place in the fridge or freezer until set.
- 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 taste another version.