Chocolate is an unusual ingredient that should have its very own food group. Chocolate is very comforting, creamy, and delicious! Raw cacao is so delicious and has benefits like:
- Magnesium, and other essential minerals including calcium, sulfur, zinc, iron, copper, potassium, and manganese
- Polyphenols called flavonoids, with antioxidant properties
- Vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B9, E
- Essential heart-healthy fat: oleic acid a monounsaturated fat
Is Chocolate Good for You?
This is a question that is always at the center of controversy. As with anything, do your due diligence. However I am a huge fan of chocolate in moderation. I do not eat milk chocolate only cacao in the 70% range and above. Does chocolate have health benefits? Of course read on…
Chocolate has been used for centuries to treat bronchitis, sexual malaise, fatigue, hangovers, anemia, depression, memory loss, high blood pressure, poor eyesight, and more. It also helps release that feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, but eat the wrong kind and you’ll get lots of sugar, calories, and junky ingredients.
How to Eat it Responsibly
Chocolate begins life as raw cacao (pronounced kah-kow) beans. Loaded with antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and plant phenols, cacao is a powerful superfood. The more processed cacao becomes in commercially produced candy bars – the fewer healthy components remain.
So how to get the most out of your chocolate fix?
Don’t be afraid of the dark. The darker the chocolate, the more beneficial cacao it contains.
Know your percentages: the number on dark chocolate packaging refers to the percentage of cacao bean in chocolate. For maximum health benefit, look for dark chocolate that has 75% to 85% cacao. Go raw and as unprocessed as possible.
These nutrients found in raw chocolate have been linked to a number of health benefits:
1) Raw chocolate can lower blood pressure and improve circulation
Flavanols, theobromine, and other components found in cacao may lower blood pressure and enhance circulation by promoting dilation, strength, and health of blood vessels.
2) Raw chocolate can promote cardiovascular function and health
The antioxidant power of flavonoids and essential minerals and vitamins found in cacao can support healthy heart functioning by lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow, lowering LDL cholesterol, and reducing plaque buildup on artery walls.
3) Raw chocolate can neutralize free radicals
High levels of antioxidants protect the body from a buildup of free radicals from sun exposure, pollution, cigarette smoking, etc., which may damage healthy body tissue giving rise to cancer and cardiovascular disease.
4) Raw chocolate can improve digestion
A sufficient amount of fiber delivered with each serving of cacao supports digestion while cacao stimulates the body’s production of digestive enzymes.
5) Raw chocolate can enhance physical and mental well-being
There are many components of cacao including alkaloids, proteins, beta-carotene, leucine, linoleic, lipase, lysine, and theobromine, that all work together to improve physical and mental health. For example, theombromine helps to stimulate the central nervous system, relax smooth muscles, and dilate blood vessels, giving the body a boost of energy; “bliss” chemicals found in cacao help to increase circulation and availability of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in brain, improving mood and combating depression.
Raw cacao can be purchased as whole beans (peeled or unpeeled), nibs, or powder. Note: Cacao nibs are cacao beans that have been peeled and crushed, while cacao powder is made from peeled and cold-pressed cacao beans.
What to Look for when Buying Raw Chocolate:
Look for labels that read “raw” chocolate or cacao. Raw beans are not roasted, and are only fermented and dried, conserving their superfood composition. Avoid labels that read “roasted” chocolate or cacao. When the beans are roasted, they are stripped of their antioxidant properties.
One of my favorite chocolate bars is Oaxaca Exotic Chocolate Bar made by Vosges Haut Chocolate and they are sold at Whole Foods.