When it comes to taking care of our health, eating more chocolate isn’t typically the first thing on our agenda. After all, it’s no secret that getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and healthy fats on our plates is what’s best for our health. While that may be true, it still doesn’t mean that including a bit of cacao and other sweet indulgences into our diet isn’t good for us.
In fact, sprinkling some cacao nibs on your breakfast or having a piece of dark chocolate for an afternoon snack or dessert might not just be good for the soul but also contribute to a healthy body and healthy mind. Recent findings show that pure cacao and chocolate goodies that contain minimally processed ingredients (we’re talking at least 85 percent cacao) actually have immense benefits for our health.
Chocolate — healthy? If that doesn’t pique your interest, we don’t know what will! Without further ado, here are five reasons why eating chocolate totally belongs in your self-care routine:
Coconut-Infused Chocolate Flax Seed Pudding/One Green Planet
Some would say that chocolate nourishes the soul (which we can’t argue with!) but it turns out it can do a lot more than that. Cacao is packed with a variety of nutrients that contribute to essential functions in our bodies. It’s full of magnesium, a mineral that plays an important role in regulating blood pressure and in physiological functions such as muscle contraction and relaxation, and nerve functions. Including healthy sources of chocolate into your diet will also give you a significant amount of copper, iron, calcium, and chromium. These minerals are important for human health as they support our immune system, keep our hormones balanced, and preserve our cognitive functions.
Ever had a bad day made instantly better by a bite of chocolate? You aren’t alone! Surprisingly, it has likely little to do with the exquisite and indulgent taste. Polyphenols and methylxanthines which are chemical constituents found in cacao are thought to be responsible for chocolate’s beneficial effect on our negative feelings. Research suggests that the positive action these substances have on neurotransmitter systems in the brain involved with mood regulation is the reason why chocolate has the power to lift our spirits.
We can’t disagree that chocolate is a source of happiness when we have recipes like this gorgeous Chocolate and Banana Mochi Rice Pudding (pictured above), these Raw Hazelnut Chocolate Truffles, these Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Truffles With Smoked Sea Salt, and these Raw Super Food Energy Bars With Cacao.
We can’t vouch for total chocoholics who devour chocolate as if it’s going out of style (which it likely never will!) but including reasonable amounts into your diet can actually impact your digestion positively. The secret? The ‘good bacteria’ in our gut loves chocolate as much as we do! In fact, it feeds on the polyphenols and fiber found in cacao products and breaks them down to produce anti-inflammatory compounds that benefit our digestive system. Flavonols, a type of polyphenolic compounds found in chocolate, also has the power to increase the amount of good bacteria in our gut while decreasing the proliferation of less beneficial ones.
Chocolate is the hallmark for the only holiday centered around hearts so it shouldn’t be that surprising to learn that chocolate-y goodies can actually protect us from heart disease. Cacao has been shown to reduce the level of bad cholesterol, an important marker for the development of atherosclerosis. In fact, eating chocolate daily for as little as two weeks can lower bad cholesterol levels by as much as fifteen percent. How amazing is that?
Chocolate’s protective effects on our hearts can also be attributed to the flavonols compounds it contains. These compounds help reduce hypertension, improve endothelial functions, and have anti-inflammatory effects, all of which are significantly related to cardiovascular health.
If you want to give your heart some love and your taste buds a moment of happiness, we suggest giving these Red Wine-Filled Chocolates (pictured above) a try. You can also check out these 20 Superfood Vegan Recipes Made with Raw Cacao!
This one is good news to all of us who have trouble getting down massive amounts of greens — we can eat chocolate to get antioxidants! It may sound too good to be true but facts don’t lie. Cacao actually contains more phenolic antioxidants than most foods. It’s also rich in catechin, epicatechin, and procyanidins compounds which play a role in reducing inflammation in our bodies and contribute to preventing major diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurological diseases.
Want to find new delicious chocolate-y recipes to capitalize on the fact that chocolate can rival greens in health benefits? We’ve got you covered! Try out these Mini Chocolate Blueberry Cups (pictured above) along with these Healthy Chocolate Orange Brownies, this Healthy Chocolate Avocado Fudge, and these gluten-free Healthy Peanut Butter Chocolate Caramel Oat Bars.
Mexican Spiced, Chocolate Covered Cashews/One Green Planet
Interested in taking better care of yourself this year and eating amazing vegan food? Then, these articles might interest you:
- Free Your Mind: How a Plant-Based Diet Rejuvenates the Brain
- 5 Ways Meditation Can Help You Live a More Sustainable Life
- 5 Natural Oils That Do Wonders for Your Skin
- Tea Time: The Health Reasons Why You Should Pick Up the Habit
- 10 Foods You Should Eat for a Good Night’s Sleep
- 5 Easy Ways to Take Your Smoothie to Super Healthy Levels
- 25 Comfort Food Recipes Made Lighter and Healthier
- 15 Flavorful and Filling Comfort Foods Packed With Good Carbs
If you want to find more chocolate-y recipes and other delicious concoctions you can indulge in once in a while, we highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!
Lead image source: Shutterstock