It’s your comfort food, your confidant, your love enhancer, and your pick-me up and break-up healer.
When it comes to chocolate, as with all good things in life, the devils in the dose.
Despite the fact that chocolate has yet to claim health food status, it’s reputation is on the rise, as a growing number of research studies suggest numerous health benefits from its cocoa bean base.
Dark chocolate specifically (70% and above), which is often low in sugar and a good source of fat and nutrients, bears the bulk of the value as compared to it’s more highly processed, sugar-laden, milk chocolate sibling.
Assuming you like dark chocolate AND you’re interested in living healthy, losing weight, and just being an awesome person, here are 5 reasons why dark chocolate, in all of it’s heavenly goodness, should find it’s way into your cupboard today.
Rich in Vitamins and Minerals:
Dark chocolate contains a number of vitamins and minerals that can support your health, including potassium, copper, iron and magnesium. These happen to be the same minerals that the majority of Americans tend to be deficient in (magnesium and potassium especially) because of conventional farming practices. Based on that logic alone, one could reason that dark chocolate is actually a necessary part of any nutrient dense diet.
A couple squares of dark chocolate daily can provide a significant portion of your recommended daily intake of magnesium, which is an extremely important mineral that is utilized in nearly every function and tissue in the body. Specifically, magnesium could help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and boost overall heart health.
Brain Health (and Love Enhancer):
Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. In fact the Aztec ruler, Montezuma, believed chocolate was an aphrodisiac, hence the original association with Valentines Day and chocolate presents. That’s also the reason why I used to hand out chocolate bars in my college women’s studies class.
Ever wonder why you turn to the pint of chocolate Haagen Daaz after a rough day or breakup? PEA encourages your brain to release endorphins, so eating dark chocolate will make you feel happier, even if you just got dumped.
Additionally, dark chocolate increases blood flow to the brain and heart, so it can help improve cognitive function and reduce your risk of stroke.
Prevents sugar cravings:
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that dark chocolate is far more filling, offering more of a feeling of satiety than milk chocolate. Even though dark chocolate has far less sugar than it’s lighter counterpart, it seems that dark chocolate may lessen cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods.
So when you find yourself craving that after dinner treat, indulging in a bit of healthy dark chocolate can help keep those sugar cravings at bay and your waistline in check.
Swiss scientists found that when very anxious people ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for two weeks, their stress hormone levels were significantly reduced and the metabolic effects of stress were partially mitigated.
If more offices would simply ditch the bowls of M&M and mini candy bar dishes and replace them with a dark chocolate bar in every desk, I do believe we’d have far less stress and far more productivity… and far less diabetes.
As if you needed any other reason to indulge guilt free?
Studies show that those that celebrate their food choices, as opposed to those that focus on feelings of guilt, experience more pleasure and are more successful in reaching their weight loss goals.
1) Choose dark chocolate that has greater than 70% cocoa content for the most nutrient density and associated health benefits. The higher the cocoa content, the less sugar, but alternatively, the more bitter the bar will be.
2) The main ingredients, which should be minimal, should include cocoa mass, cocoa butter and sugar. Avoid products with vegetable or hydrogenated oils.
3) Choose companies that produce organic, fair-trade, ethically farmed and manufactured chocolate that you can enjoy the taste of as well as feel good about supporting.
4) When consuming, avoid inhaling the chocolate in a ravenous binge. Rather, try allowing a square to melt between your tongue and the roof of your mouth, thereby savoring the flavors and maximizing the enjoyment, while minimizing the desire to eat the entire bar.
So there you have it. More than you could possibly care to know about exactly why dark chocolate is essentially a health food.
Now go on; support the health of mankind, the stability of your romantic relationships, and the pleasure of eating by giving a loved one some quality dark chocolate today. And make sure to save a couple squares for yourself.