The amazing health benefits of chocolate
Over $75 billion is spent worldwide every year on chocolate, and it is estimated that the average American consumes 12 pounds of chocolate every year. The good news is that the cocoa beans (also called cacao beans) used to make chocolate are a superfood – one of the healthiest foods around!
Top 10 reasons you should eat chocolate:
- One of the highest sources of antioxidants. Cocoa beans have been found to have more antioxidants than blueberries, acai berries, red wine or green tea.
- Great source of magnesium. Magnesium is needed for over 300 processes in your body – for example, it is a natural muscle relaxer, helps with sleep, keeps your bowels regular, reduces anxiety, and prevents high blood pressure.
- Rich in polyphenols – which are natural mood boosting compounds. They can help you feel more calm, so if you have chocolate cravings, indulging may actually make you feel better!
- Rich in soluble fiber, which helps maintain normal cholesterol levels and digestive health.
- Contains high amounts of trace minerals (such as manganese, copper, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium)
- Contains nutrients called flavonols which help increase blood flow to your heart and brain, and can help lower blood pressure. In fact, in one study, elderly men who ate chocolate regularly reduced their risk of death from heart disease by 50%!. Flavonols also reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke.
- Rich in healthy, anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats
- Helps stabilize blood sugar levels.
- Being evaluated for possible cancer prevention effects
- Helps increase HDL levels (“good” cholesterol)
What kind of chocolate should you eat?
In order to get these health benefits, you need to eat at least 70% dark chocolate. The percentage refers to how much cocoa is in the chocolate; 70% dark means that 70% is cocoa and the other 30% is made up of other ingredients, such as sugar.
If you are looking for healthy dark chocolate, read the ingredients! It should list chocolate liquor, cocoa (or cacao), cocoa powder, or cocoa nibs as the first ingredient (any of these is ok). The higher the percentage of cocoa, the lower the sugar content and the more health benefits, but the chocolate also tastes more bitter.
Is milk chocolate ok?
Milk chocolate has as little as 10% cocoa (the rest is milk, sugar and other ingredients). This means you would have to eat MUCH more chocolate to get the same health benefits, but all the sugar and calories will erase the benefits of the cocoa.
What about white chocolate?
White chocolate is made from cocoa butter. It has zero flavonols and does not have any health benefits.
How much dark chocolate should you eat?
To get the health benefits of dark chocolate, eat 1 ounce at least twice a week, but eating 1 ounce daily is even better! 1 ounce is about 1 square. Be aware that while dark chocolate is very healthy, it is not a low calorie food, so moderation is important.
Add nuts or fruit!
Adding other healthy foods, such as coconut, almonds, or strawberries can add extra fiber, healthy fats and other nutrients, and can make dark chocolate even tastier! Be sure to read the label and watch for hidden sugar.
What if I don’t like dark chocolate?
Not everyone is a fan of dark chocolate, but you can develop a taste for it! Start with 50% dark and work your way up to see if starts to grow on you. If you really don’t like the dark stuff, you’ll have to pick other healthy foods instead. Save milk chocolate only for a special treat, since this is just candy without any health benefits.
Eating healthy can taste good and be fun. And since dark chocolate is good for you, you can indulge and don’t have to feel guilty!
Remember, eating well is the best medicine. Take care of yourself, because you deserve to LOVE the way you feel!