With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s fitting that this article is about chocolate. Chocolate is this amazingly scrumptious bite of addiction made from cacao beans. Cacao beans grow on trees in a tropical area and is native to Central and South America, but is grown commercially throughout the tropics. About 70% of the world’s cacao is grown in Africa. When they are harvested, the cacao beans then go through a process of fermentation. The heat of fermentation then changes the bitter flavors in the bean to a chocolaty edible flavor. After fermentation, the beans are dried in the sun for about a week to let the flavors develop. Once the beans are dried, they are then turned into that delicious chocolate flavor.
There’s something intoxicating about the scent of chocolate. Aside from that lovely smell, did you know there are actually health benefits to eating chocolate? Chocolate is classified as a superfood and the secret behind it is the cacao. Packed with healthy chemicals like flavonoids and theobromine, this little bean is a disease-killing bullet. Unfortunately, you can’t just eat cacao beans as they are bitter. That’s where the process of adding milk, sugar, and butter come into play. Too much of this goodness isn’t always great for your health. So when you’re looking for chocolate, find chocolate that has at least 70% cacao.
Top 10 Health Benefits of Chocolate
1. Good quality dark chocolate that contains 70-85% cacao is rich in fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese. It also has potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium. One of the great reasons dark chocolate is heart-healthy is its inflammation-fighting properties.
2. Women who ate as much as 45 grams of chocolate a week also lowered the risk of stroke by 20%. Chocolate can help improve blood flow. Cacao has anti-clotting, blood-thinning properties that work in a similar way to aspirin.
3. Chocolate can boost heart health. Those who regularly enjoy chocolate benefit from lower blood pressure, low “bad” LDL cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease. Women who ate chocolate can cut their risk of heart failure by as much as 1/3.
4. Add a little dark chocolate to your diet plan. Dark chocolate is more filling and offers the feeling of satiety.
5. Possible diabetes prevention. Participants in a small Italian study ate a whole candy bar’s worth of dark chocolate once a day for 15 days and saw potential for insulin resistance drop by nearly half. Disclaimer: This is just a study and should not be used as a replacement for your insulin.
6. Chocolate can help reduce stress. A study done by Swiss scientists found that when anxious people ate an an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for 2 weeks, their stress hormone levels significantly reduced and their metabolic effects of stress were partially reduced as well. Maybe this is why we eat chocolate after a breakup?
7. Dark chocolate is a powerful source of antioxidants. It is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants for your body. This includes: polyphenols, flavanols, catchins. One study showed that cacao and dark chocolate contains more antioxidants then fruits such as blueberries and Acai berries.
8. Chocolate can protect your skin. Wait.. what? That’s right! Dark chocolate is good for your skin. The flavonoids from the antioxidants offer protection from UV damage when you’re in the sun. No, don’t skip out on the sunscreen though.
9. Chocolate can help improve performance and alertness in the brain. A researcher at the University of Nottingham found that drinking cocoa rich in flavanols boosts blood flow to key parts of the brain. So next time you’re working on that big school or work project, indulge in a little bit of chocolate. It might be just the boost of brain power you’ll need.
10. Cough relief. Got a little scratch in your throat that makes you cough? A study found that chocolate quiets cough almost as well as codeine, thanks to the theobromine it contains. This chemical is responsible for chocolate’s feel-good effect. Codeine has side effects such as making people feel sleepy and dull, whereas chocolate just leaves you feeling fine.
Who knew chocolate had all these great benefits? Mother’s have always said not to have too much sweets. Well, most studies now say it’s okay to indulge. And by indulging in a little bit of that delicious chocolate, you may be helping your body.
Unfortunately, most chocolate available to buy is made with dairy, therefore Vegans are unable to eat it. Fear not! There are plenty of other options to try. If you’re still unsure about the chocolate, check to see if it contains milk. Look at the bottom of the ingredients list at the “Allergen Information.” It will say: “Contains milk,” because dairy milk is a common allergen. Check out this brand: http://gomaxgofoods.com/ Their chocolate is 100% vegan and most are gluten-free.