Rich, luscious chocolate is one of the most-craved foods in America, and for good reason. It’s delicious, it’s decadent and it seems to make many people feel better. What’s not to love?
Well, many chocolates on the market, such as processed candy bars, are loaded with sugar and artificial additives. These definitely aren’t healthy. However, if you choose organic, raw dark chocolate, one which doesn’t contain refined sugar, you are giving your body a real treat.
The following are five things to love about dark chocolate:
It’s rich in nutrients
Dark chocolate is teeming with nutrition! One huge aspect of this is its wealth of antioxidant compounds. These include flavonoids, polyphenol antioxidants and catechins, all of which help to combatinflammation and play a big role in preventing chronic illnesses from developing.
Additionally, dark chocolate contains a significant amount of fiber, which is crucial for both healthy digestion and a healthy heart. It is also rich in minerals, including copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc.
On top of that, dark chocolate contains a wealth of healthy fats. These include both monounsaturated fat and healthy, natural saturated fats. Eating healthy fat keeps all your body systems functioning smoothly.
It may help protect your heart
On the subject of dark chocolate and heart health, the authors of a 2004 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition wrote:
“Dark chocolate derived from the plant (Theobroma cacao) is a rich source of flavonoids. Cardioprotective effects including antioxidant properties, inhibition of platelet activity, and activation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase have been ascribed to the cocoa flavonoids.”
It seems that for a healthy heart, adding some dark chocolate to your meals isn’t a bad idea at all!
It may improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood pressure
Research has linked consuming dark chocolate with improved insulin sensitivity, and a positive effect on blood pressure. For a 2005 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers gave white chocolate or dark chocolate to 15 healthy individuals and measured their sensitivity to insulin, as well as their blood pressure.
Based on their results, the study authors concluded:
“Dark, but not white, chocolate decreases blood pressure and improves insulin sensitivity in healthy persons.”
This makes sense, as white chocolate is made solely from cocoa butter, and does not contain many of the antioxidant compounds that dark chocolate boasts.
It can lift your spirits
There’s a reason why chocolate is known as a comfort food — it’s not all in your head. Cacao contains an alkaloid known as theobromine, which has been associated with stimulating the central nervous system, and providing energy. Dark chocolate also contains a compound known as phenylethylamine (PEA), which has been found to affect the brain chemistry in a similar way to falling in love.
Consuming cacao can also help to increase serotonin availability, which may help to ease symptoms of depression, and boost your overall mood.
It pairs well with other superfoods — both sweet and savory
While many people think of chocolate as a sugary snack, it doesn’t have to be that way! Unsweetened, raw cacao goes great in savory dishes. It can be used in spice rubs, and to add a deep, complex flavor to sauces and stews. It works great when combined with chile peppers, as evidenced by mole, a traditional Mexican dish.
In sweet recipes, chocolate can also shine. A number of desserts star chocolate. However, to get all the health benefits without the evils of sugar, sweeten your recipes with organic coconut crystals, raw honey or unprocessed stevia leaves.
Choosing the healthiest chocolate
The healthiest chocolate you can get is organic raw dark chocolate. For baking, hot cocoa and other preparations, go for organic raw cacao instead of refined (and often sugar-sweetened) cocoa powder. This type of chocolate may cost a bit more, but the health benefits are certainly worth it.