For those looking to celebrate a healthier Valentine’s Day, choosing dark chocolate over other options may be the first step. Not all chocolate is made the same. This sweet, healthier chocolate option may be the best chocolate choice for celebrating a healthy Valentine’s Day.
When you think of Valentine’s Day most automatically think flowers and chocolate. So much so that last years chocolate sales topped a whopping $345 million dollars and the masses bought an amazing 58 million pounds of the sweet treats!
What exactly is the draw for this sweet option on Valentine’s Day? According to an interesting article written by Jeff Koehler over at NPR, “How Chocolate Became A Sweet (But Not So Innocent) Consort To Valentine’s Day“, chocolate has been considered an aphrodisiac since the Aztecs. Throughout the ages, this rich sweet treat has been known as the “elixir of love”. Approprié, no?
Why choose dark chocolate over the more popular milk chocolate options? For the HEALTH of it! All chocolate is full of calories, sugar & fat. Take solace, chocolate lovers, the benefits of eating dark chocolate abound. However, this doesn’t give the green light to eat an overabundance of chocolate at a sitting. I repeat….sadly ALL chocolate is full of calories, sugar & fat. The trick to reaping the health benefits of quality dark chocolate, which stem from cocao, is moderation.
Cocoa powder, also known as “cacao” is the dried and fully fermented seed of Theobroma cacao, grown in tropical areas. Over 70% of cacao is grown in West Africa and supplies the majority of the worlds demand. The seeds, or pods, grow on the trunk of the tree as well as the trees main stem or branches. As they cross-pollinate readily, the pods come in many different kinds and sizes.
With cacao more is better. That is percentage wise, the higher the percentage of cacao the healthier for you. Although milk chocolate versions do have some cocoa, roughly only 10%, what little it does have is diluted with excess milk solids, sugars, and cream. Thus greatly reducing its health attributes. By choosing quality dark chocolate, with at least 70% concentration, you can be sure you will reap its nutritional benefits.
Why is the cacao bean so healthy for you? Let me take a moment and spill the beans on how this superfood is good for us. When eaten in moderation we can expect to reap some hefty health bennies. Here are few.
Health Benefits Of Dark Chocolate
Polyphenols, naturally occurring antioxidants found in foods like cacao, wine, and fruits & vegetables. They have been linked to a reduction in inflammation, see my article on the importance of reducing inflammation in the body, “Golden Paste! 10 Reasons Why You & Your Pets Will Benefit“, lowered cholesterol levels, improved blood flow, and lower blood pressure.Cacao is one the richest source of polyphenols in foods available. Noteworthy, the processing (heating) used in creating much of the dark chocolate available (often treated with alkaline to reduce bitterness) effects the polyphenols content level. Finding a source with the highest percentage of cacoa you enjoy will increase the content level.
Improves Heart Health
Quality cacao is rich in flavanols which have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. According to the article in AHA Journals, ” Cocoa and Cardiovascular Health“,
What does this mean? According to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published in February 2012, it was determined that cacao has statistically significant effects on cardiovascular health risk factors, including:
- Improve Functioning of Blood Vessels (endothelial function)
- Induce Insulin Resistance
- Reduce Blood Pressure
- Reduce Triglycerides
Improves Cognitive Function
Again, thank you polyphenols. According to an article written by Astrid Nehlig, “The Neuroprotective Effects of Cocoa Flavanol and It’s Influence on Cognitive Performance“, that they may reduce your risk of neurodegenerative diseases by improving brain function and blood flow.
Cacao Is Good For The Skin
Ingesting cacao long term “acutely increases the micro-circulation” of our dermal layers according to this abstract written by Neukam, Stahl, Tronnier, Sies, & Heinrich, “Consumption of Flavanol-Rich Cocoa Acutely Increases Micro-circulation in Human Skin“, thus improving hydration and texture of our skin.
In addition, there have been studies showing that consumption of cacao may provide some photo protection against UV rays.
One research article in The Journal of Physcopharmacology indicates that ingesting dark chocolate with high percentage of cacao, improves mood, reduces stress by improving calmness & contentment, and improves overall psychological well-being.
As with everything here on IMSL, we promote and encourage a conscious sustainable & organic approach to living. By using your purchasing power and endorsing Fair Trade practices, it will ensure that our farmers in these Western climes receive fair wages and working environments & receive a premium to invest in their local communities.
As most cacao is grown in countries without strict pesticide restrictions, selecting only dark chocolate grown organically assures you as the consumer will not be ingesting unwanted chemicals and pesticides, provides safeguards assuring farmers health, and secures the health of the land. A major win on all fronts.
How much dark chocolate should you eat to reap the health benefits? Most indicators suggest eating only 1/2 to 1 ounce per day if you are eating cacao in the form of dark chocolate, depending on what your waistline will endure, will provide you with the health benefits. If you are choosing cacao in the powdered form or the nibs (add to smoothies, etc.), you can ingest a bit more, add 1-2 Tbl to your snack or meal.
Choosing an organic, high quality & percentage cacao packs a healthy punch. One filled with vitamins, minerals, fibres, and essential fatty acids. So show some love and choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day the healthy way.
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This article was shared at Farm Fresh Tuesdays