Sweets for the Sweet: The Health Benefits of Chocolate

Chocolate
Chocolate

Many people think that chocolate is one the unhealthiest things you could eat! Although most frown upon the delicious treat, you should NOT! Don’t fret—chocolate is extremely beneficial for your health! Start feeling guilt-free next time you bite into your favorite savory sweet. Find out how chocolate can be amazingly good for you!

What is Chocolate?

There are three main types of chocolate: dark, milk, and white. The difference between them depends on the amount of chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, and milk content they are made with.

Have you ever tasted bittersweet chocolate? That’s chocolate in its healthiest form! Sweet chocolate is a result from alkalization or “Dutch processing,” which removes the bitter taste. However, removing the bitterness from chocolate also removes the health benefits. You can see this in the color difference between milk and dark chocolate.

Cocoa or Cacao?

The plant and powder from the tree refers to “cocoa,” whereas “cacao” refers to the percentage of the product that is made from the cocoa bean. Since cocoa is found in pods and is a seeds, it is considered a fruit—a dark, delicious fruit! Chocolate with a cacao percent of 75% or over has the greatest health benefits!

Go Crazy for Cocoa!

Did you know there are over 711 nutrients and phytochemicals in cocoa? Cocoa seeds qualify as a “superfruit” due to their high nutritional content. Cocoa also has a higher ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score and flavanoid value when compared with acai, blueberry, cranberry, and grapes—a.k.a. some of the healthiest foods you can eat!

Cacao and Health

There have been over 250 studies and 150 historical medicinal uses of cacao. The greatest benefit is it helps cells produce nitric oxide which relaxes arteries, allows more blood flow throughout the body, and lowers blood pressure. Other benefits include reducing the risk of heart attack, managing cholesterol, improving insulin sensitivity (lowers Glycemic Index), fighting off free radicals, increasing energy, decreasing fatigue, and improving digestion due to its high fiber content.

Health by Chocolate

A Netherlands study indicated that elderly men who ate chocolate regularly had a 50% reduced risk of heart disease and a 47% reduced risk of dying. Evidence also suggests that cocoa could be a factor in cognition and exercise recovery. A supportive study showed that athletes were able to do 27% more work after consuming chocolate milk.

Get the Most from Chocolate!

• Incorporate chocolate into your diet in a healthy way! Use one or two tablespoons of natural cocoa powder to sprinkle on top of food or mix in beverages. It’s a great way to add flavor while reaping the health benefits.

• Remember portion control. Try to eat only one ounce of dark chocolate per serving that has not been Dutch processed—you’ll thank yourself later!

• Try organic chocolate. Foods with the USDA organic seal represent that the product has been made with the utmost standards and care, without harmful chemicals or pesticides.

• Use dark chocolate as your “reward” or to fulfill your sweet sugar craving. It’s never good to starve yourself or be too strict with your diet, as it can cause binge eating. Instead, when you feel a craving for something sweet, choose chocolate over carbohydrates like cake, cookies, or candy!

Enjoy eating your way to a healthier you by eating your favorite food! The key to success lies in your power to eat chocolate with the right ingredients and serving size. When in doubt, go for dark chocolate—and see and feel the amazing results on the inside and out!

 

Resources:

http://blogs.webmd.com/food-and-nutrition/2012/04/you-say-cacao-i-say-cocoa-we-both-say-chocolate.html

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/health-by-chocolate

http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main/chocolate/high-percentage-cacao-chocolate.asp

 

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