How many of us feel guilty when we eat chocolate and think it will cause weight gain and other health issues? What if chocolate was good for you? Let’s take a look at some of the facts.
Chocolate is made from the seeds of the cacao tree. The seeds are fermented, dried, roasted, and the shell is removed to form cacao nibs. These nibs are processed to form a chocolate liquor, which can be further processed to form solid cocoa butter and eventually made into a chocolate bar.
White chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar and milk but no cocoa solids and is not considered to be true chocolate. Most chocolate consumed in the United States is highly processed and has added ingredients such as refined sugar, artificial flavors, cheap fats and hydrogenated oils, resulting in unnatural product that is high in fat and calories and devoid of nutritional value.
So, what do you look for when buying chocolate? Before you reach for a candy bar, look at the label. Look for bars that have a cocoa content of 60 percent or higher and are free of artificial ingredients and high fructose corn syrup. You can also buy raw chocolate.
Some of the many health benefits of dark chocolate are:
- Polyphenols that reduce inflammation
- Improved blood pressure
- Help with insulin sensitivity and blood flow
- Lowered LDL levels and increased HDL levels
A recent study shows that even a small amount of cocoa and dark chocolate can have a protective effect on the blood vessels of the circulatory system.
Chocolate is a significant source of antioxidants. This helps with free radicals and oxidation in the body. Other studies are being done to show the impact on cognition and skin health.
One of the minerals that chocolate is rich in is magnesium. If you crave a lot of chocolate, this may be a clue that you may be low in magnesium.
Do the fat and calories in chocolate negate the health benefits? Much of the saturated fat in chocolate is stearic acid, which has a neutral effect on cholesterol levels. Calorie intake needs to be taken into consideration to maintain a healthy weight.
Chocolate contains several chemicals that can alter our mood and cause us to crave it.
Theobromine is a mildly addictive stimulant, and phenethylamine is associated with feelings of happiness. Caffeine is a stimulant in chocolate which if eaten late in the day, may cause some insomnia. Chocolate definitely affects the seratonin levels in the brain and can be mildly addictive.
Like anything else, even healthy chocolate can be overdone. Don’t forget about healthy food choices to get your daily quota of antioxidants. You need a variety of foods to receive all the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants your body needs to build and maintain health. The health benefits of dark chocolate can be had while consuming it in moderation.
Personally, I love dark chocolate, and I’m happy that it can be a part of my life and the life of my clients. It can fit into a healthy lifestyle program along with other healthy habits. It fits into my weight loss plan!
To your health,