I love chocolate. Who doesn’t? But do you ever find that little voice in your head filling you with guilt and trying to talk you out of that heavenly chocolate indulgence? Well fret no more friends, below are clear health reasons to indulge, as well as some guidelines to keep it in check!
- Reduced Stress Levels: Studies have shown a reduction in stress hormone levels with just 1.4 ounces eaten daily for two weeks, in those feeling highly stressed out. Dopamine levels improved in healthy the human volunteers and cortisol (the stress hormone) as well as the “fight or flight” hormones were reduced.
- Mineral Content: Chocolate is the number one food source for magnesium. Magnesium is essential in balancing brain chemistry, building strong bones, and regulating blood pressure and heartbeat. It’s also choc full of iron, calcium, manganese, zinc, copper, and potassium.
- It Makes You Pretty: That’s what I said. Chocolate contains high amounts of sulfur, which is responsible for healthy hair, skin and nails (as well as detoxifying the liver and promoting pancreatic health.) It contains good fats, while promoting circulation, which can make skin look even more beautiful. It also potentially helps regulate appetite, which may help in weight maintenance, helping us feel more confident.
- Heart Health: Chocolate is shown to reduce the chance of heart attacks and stroke, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, keep blood vessels dilated, and reduce blood clotting. Enough said!
- Cancer Prevention: Yes, that’s right! Raw cacao, the chocolate bean, has four times the antioxidant content of well touted green tea. In fact, it contains the highest antioxidant content of any food on the planet. Antioxidants play key roles in fighting free radicals and other oxidative stresses, thus preventing cancers as well as heart disease.
Now here’s how we keep it in check:
Raw cacao is ideal because it is the most natural form of chocolate. It can be bought in powder form, which is great for replacing cocoa in recipes, such as hot chocolate. Nibs can also be used, which are a great source of fiber and easily sprinkled over cereal, coconut ice cream, or blended into shakes. Start with one tablespoon 2-3 days a week. If you would rather stick with the standard chocolate bar, here’s the deal. Keep it dark, 70% cacao or higher, preferably organic, and with a 2-3 ounce portion size. Stay away form the over processed, sugar laden commercial blends, as you are not likely to reap the health benefits. Try to look for bars with as few ingredients as possible to cash in the healthy rewards. And most importantly, ENJOY!!!
Image Source: Amy Loves Yah/Flickr
Maybe try to find fair trade chocolate, as well? The documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate” is good at illustrating the frequent child slavery used to produce a major number of chocolates that aren’t Fair Trade certified.