It is delicious with coffee, the perfect comfort food, essential just before your period, and a must in case of a heartbreak.
Actually, there is always a good excuse to eat chocolate, and we would like to add another reason to it: your health. Chocolate is, in fact, healthy and a real power food – at least, provided you buy the right kind. Eating chocolate dates back to 1500BC the first civilisation to use cocoa beans were the Olmecs of Mexico.The UK has the seventh highest consumption of chocolate in the world. The average Brit eats 17.49lbs of chocolate per year.
Source of antioxidants
Chocolate is actually made from a fruit – the cocoa bean approximately around 40 cocoa beans are contained within a cocoa pod.
One of the main reasons why chocolate is healthy is because cocoa beans contain a lot of antioxidants. These substances protect the body against free radicals. They thus help to prevent against the ageing processes and thereby reduces the potential risk of (for example) dementia. Furthermore, chocolate contains substances that can improve your mood. That is why we are so happy!
Other health benefits of antioxidants in chocolate are:
– it has a positive effect on blood pressure
– it prevents blood clots
– it keeps veins flexible
– it has a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels
This is good news for your heart and blood vessels because a normal blood pressure, flexible veins and good cholesterol levels help prevent heart attacks, arteriosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases.
Losing weight with chocolate
Research shows that chocolate is also your best friend when it comes to weight loss. Certain nutrients in cocoa may help improve insulin sensitivity in the body, thus helping your blood sugar’s balance. This reduces appetite and prevents cravings. Which is nice when you are trying to lose a few pounds. The high magnesium content of chocolate also helps you to sleep better and can reduce stress sensitivity. New research by Nutritionist and Neuroscientist Dr Will Clower found amazing results from his clients, who have lost more than 100 pounds. His study dispels the myth that chocolate is just a “junk food” by revealing how this succulent food contains healthy antioxidants that can actually help you lose weight.
How nice to hear that chocolate is healthy. But is all chocolate healthy?
Avoid Milk and White
With all these health benefits, you would think that a bar of chocolate had long been included in the pyramid. Unfortunately, that is not the case. And with good reason: the usual chocolate bars on display in supermarkets (mainly milk and white chocolate), are in fact absolutely not healthy. During their production, the cocoa beans are heated to a high temperature, essentially taking away all the good nutrients. Then a mountain of sugar and fat is added to the roasted cocoa. Delicious to the taste, but not for your health. Moreover, the high saturated fat is bad for your cholesterol, which just increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
If you want to enjoy healthy chocolate, you need to get raw chocolate in the house. Raw chocolate is made from cocoa beans that have been roasted without too many additions. This preserves all valuable nutrients and makes this chocolate healthy. But we do have to add to it: it takes some getting used to. Raw chocolate has a strong cocoa flavour, is structurally coarser and is usually less sweet. For real chocoholics, this is no problem. And once you are accustomed to raw cocoa, you will want nothing else! Raw cacao can be found at health food stores or, if you are lucky, in the well-stocked supermarket.
For those who just cannot get used to the strong taste of raw cocoa, there is still good news. Extra dark chocolate is also healthy. We are talking about bars of chocolate that contain at least 65% cocoa. You can usually find the cocoa percentage on the chocolate wrappers. This way you can choose how pure you want to eat your chocolate. Keep in mind: the higher the cocoa content, the more health benefits. If you want to feast with an even more confident heart, you can buy extra dark chocolate with a fair trade label. This will ensure that the chocolate is healthy and that the cocoa farmers receive a fair price for your favourite bar of chocolate.
Chocolate improves your Mood
Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is the same chemical that your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release feel-good endorphins. The benefits for your mental health include the ability to boost brain levels of endorphins (natural opiates) as well as serotonin (a mood-altering chemical on which many antidepressants act). Chocolate is a food that may also help to increase your immune system as dark as chocolate also may increase serotonin production in the gut.