Chocolate is one of the most delicious and versatile treats around. You can enjoy it as a confection, a drink, a topping, baked in pastries, and any number of other forms. Are there any benefits to consuming chocolate? Where does this wonder ingredient come from?
Chocolate comes from the cacao bean. It’s actually a seed from the cacao plant. the cacao bean is packed with nutritional benefits, and might even be considered a health food!
What’s the best way to eat it?
Note: not all versions of this wonder food are equal in their health benefits. Raw cacao reigns supreme, but in it’s raw form can be quite bitter. Think baker’s chocolate. We have been adding sugar and cream to to chocolate for centuries. However, the more it’s reduced with fats and sugars, the less healthy it becomes. White chocolate, for example, has pretty much no nutritional benefits at all, as it’s just sugar, fat and flavorings. In fact, milk chocolate can have two to three times the sugar and fat of dark chocolate.
The most nutritional way to consume chocolate is probably raw cacao nibs. I like to add them into my smoothies for a little fiber boost, and a little chocolatey flavor that’s not too intense. Also, You can bake with cacao powder, or make hot chocolate for drinking. Next up would be a dark chocolate bar in the 70% and up range. The higher the cacao content, the higher the nutritional value.
You can brew up drinking chocolate just like coffee. It has a bit less caffeine than coffee, but a similar taste profile.
So what are the nutrients in chocolate that make it so healthy?
Chocolate is loaded with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It’s higher in antioxidants than any fruit – even more than blueberries and açai!
Vitamins and Minerals
High in potassium, phosphorus, zinc, Manganese, magnesium, iron, copper and selenium. These vitaims and minerals have many health benefits.
The naturally occurring fatty acid profile of dark chocolate is also beneficial. Containing oleic acid (the fat also found in olive oil) which is a heart-healthy fat.
Dark chocolate is packed with polyphenols, flavanols and catechins. The main antioxidants found in plant based super foods. Flavonols promote the production of nitric oxide and can reduce inflamation by improving blood flow. Increased blood flow can protect the heart against heart disease. In addition to these benefits, flavonols fight free-radicals that can cause cell damage and aging.
Polyphenols lower cortisol, which may help reduce the body’s reaction to stress. Chocolate not only tastes amazing, but it can improve your mood as well!
How much and how often should you have chocolate?
While cacao has many nutritional benefits, it is still a calorie dense food, and when it’s processed into what most people recognize as chocolate, it can be loaded with added fats and sugars.
If you stick to dark chocolate, the recommended serving size is 1-2oz. That’s around half of a standard bar. Really, that’s quite a nice serving. Also, since dark chocolate is so rich, you will want to savor it anyway.
Chocolate may be one of the best-tasting health foods around.
Happy World Chocolate day!
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