This journal entry is about the health benefits of chocolate.
Chocolate with benefits! Could this be true? This journal entry is all about the latest view that there are health benefits to eating chocolate. In particular, I look some of the reasons that chocolate could be good for you and why its best to eat raw, organic, dark chocolate.
So you might have read somewhere that chocolate is good for you….such as here, here and here! Well the good news is that, yes that is most probably true! So, what are the health benefits of chocolate? There have been numerous studies showing some links between eating chocolate and a variety of health benefits; such as reduced stress, reduced risk of stroke, and to prevent arteries from clogging. There is a particularly good review of studies looking at positive effects on blood pressure by eating chocolate here. It has also been suggested it can help protect your skin from ageing and sun damage, surprisingly it might even help delay the onset of diabetes. Another study has shown significant increases in cognitive processing and memory. For ladies, it has been shown to reduce some of the symptoms of tension around the time of your period as chocolate contains serotonin (mood elevator), potassium and magnesium. Cacao is one of the most nutritious trees on the planet, it is also one of the most complex. We are seeing more and more reliable research being conducted into this amazing tree. However we are in the early stages of rediscovering this superfood (the Mayans were way ahead of us 2000 years ago!) and it is important that you carry out your own investigations if you have a particular issue.
Before you get too excited however, there is a small problem, generally the chocolate we eat in our society won’t give you any of these wonderful benefits.The health benefits found in the more reputable studies were linked to cacao (or cocoa). This is the main ingredient in really good quality chocolate. But westernised chocolate doesn’t use much cacao at all! This is because it is loaded with sugar (usually 49-55%!), processed milk powders, additives and preservatives. The cacao that is being used has been stripped of most of its nutrients because it has been roasted to fairly high temperatures. The finished product is likely to contain only around 22% actual cacao based ingredients! Companies cut costs by substituting this wonderful life giving plant with lesser vegetable oils, palm oil (yuk, think massive deforestation) and even worst, animal fats (eugh). Finally, if the chocolatier is not using genuine organic cacao, then it is likely that their cacao contains traces of something like 17 different pesticides and fungicides! So it’s unlikely that scoffing down a 100g bar of your favourite milky chocolate is going to give you much in the way of benefit.
Why I am I being so brutally honest here, as a chocolatier surely I should be trying to sell you more chocolate!? Well, I always promised myself I would be honest and run my business with integrity. So it would be wrong for me to tell you to scoff as much chocolate as you want for health benefits. If you personally have chosen to eat chocolate for health benefits then it is important to research your condition first to see if cacao actually helps, then find chocolate that will hopefully deliver those desired benefits.
So, the truth is that chocolate is still a treat (unless you can teach yourself to eat 100% cacao nibs – I can’t, I have tried!), but not all chocolate is created equal. There is definitely chocolate with benefits available on the market, but it will be more expensive and harder to find. However you are much more likely to see health benefits by choosing 70%+ dark, organic, low-sugar, non-dairy, raw chocolate.
Here is a breakdown of a 100g bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cacao:
- 11 grams of fibre.
- 67% of the RDA for Iron.
- 58% of the RDA for Magnesium.
- 89% of the RDA for Copper.
- 98% of the RDA for Manganese.
- It also has loads of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium
Here’s a bit of sciencey stuff for you, the fatty acid profile of cacao and dark chocolate is very good. The fats are saturated and monounsaturated, with small amounts of polyunsaturates. Dark chocolate has many organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols and catechins. All sounds good to me!
So when you consider eating chocolate as a superfood for its health benefits, its vitally important to give yourself the best possible chance of actually getting some of that good stuff. The only way to do this is to eat cacao in the most undiluted, unpolluted, un-roasted form possible. As an example, if you wanted to eat a bunch of blueberries every day for their anti-oxidant properties, you would just pick up a bunch of blueberries and eat them. You wouldn’t steam them, or roast them. You wouldn’t inject them with five different additives. You wouldn’t combine them with milk or sugar. You would just eat what nature has provided as a complete food. It’s important to realise that cacao is the same as the blueberries. On its own, its not quite as palatable as a bunch of blueberries, but the best way to be sure of getting any kind of nutrients out of the seeds of this amazing tree is to eat them as close as possible to their natural state, with the least amount of refined cane sugar possible.
So buy and eat the best quality 70+% dark, organic, raw chocolate you can find and you may well get some of those amazing health benefits. If you like what you’ve read you can find my 85% dark chocolate on our Store, just click Shop Now.
Thanks for reading!