The amazing health benefits of chocolate
Chocolate sometimes gets a bad rap – especially when it comes to our skin, with chocolate being the source of blame for many-a-skin-breakout. And as that time of year approaches where we over-indulge in chocolatey goodness that’s been skilfully crafted into the shape of an egg, we thought we’d come to the rescue of those with a sweet tooth out there.
Like most foods, when it comes to healthy eating that’s good for you both inside and out – the less processed the better, and you’ll be pleased to know chocolate in its rawest form is choc-a-block full of goodness.
CHOCOLATE, COCOA & CACAO (KA-KOW)
Chocolate comes in many forms, but it’s the most natural that does us the most good. Cacao is the rawest form of ‘chocolate’; cocoa usually refers to cacao that has undergone some kind of heating process, and chocolate is cocoa that’s had a variety of ingredients added.
Before we get our hands on cocoa in any sort of edible form, we’d need to head to the deep tropical regions of Central and South America, the native home of the cacao tree. Fortunately for chocolate lovers this evergreen tree flowers and bears fruit all year round; growing to around 15 meters naturally, one tree can produce approximately a thousand pods in a single year.
A cocoa pod is the name of the fruit, and each pod contains around 20-50 precious cocoa beans along with a sweet milky pulp. The beans are extremely dark and bitter when harvested straight from the fruit, and to improve their flavour they undergo a fermentation process. The process is super simple and involves adding the beans (plus the milky pulp) to a ‘sweat box’ which is covered by banana leaves and left to ferment.
Following the fermentation process, the beans are then raked out flat and left to dry in the sun – this process again helps develop and enhance the flavour. Once dry, the outer layer is removed to reveal the dark and bitter bean. From here cocoa beans can be roasted to encourage a depth to the flavour, and as we know, other ingredients can be added such as sugar, cocoa butter, milk and milk products.
It’s chocolate with a cocoa percentage of seventy per cent or more that holds all the goodness…
THE AMAZING HEALTH BENEFITS…
REGULATES BLOOD SUGAR
Dark chocolate that contains cacao also contains chromium, a mineral that naturally helps regulate blood sugar2. It has also been shown that dark chocolate (but not white chocolate) improves insulin sensitivity in a healthy person3.
IMPROVES YOUR MOOD
Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA) which encourages your brain to release feel-good endorphins, and anandamide an endorphin that the human body naturally produces after exercise2.
THE NUMBER ONE FOR ANTIOXIDANTS
Dark chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. One study even shows that cocoa and dark chocolate contained more antioxidant activity than other fruits including blueberries and acai berries4.
Dark chocolate helps restore the flexibility of arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to blood vessel walls, and it’s both arterial stiffness and the build-up of white blood cells that play a significant role in atherosclerosis5, which causes reduced blood flow and therefore oxygen to the heart.
Cocoa and dark chocolate are full to the brim with minerals such as potassium, zinc, selenium and iron. One 100g bar of dark chocolate (+70 per cent) provides 67 per cent of your RDA of iron4.
AMAZING WAYS TO GET YOUR CHOCOLATE FIX…
A SQUARE A DAY KEEPS THE DOCTOR AWAY
Keep a block of dark chocolate in the fridge and enjoy a square or two every day to receive all of the benefits – simply does it!
SPRINKLE ON YOUR SMOOTHIE
Grate dark chocolate-goodness onto your morning breakfast bowl for a nutritious and delicious start to the day.
HEAT THINGS UP
For a yum before-bed treat, try blending warmed almond milk, honey with rich cocoa powder, for hot chocolate with all the goods.
FAB WITH FRUIT
Melt high-quality dark chocolate and enjoy with the seasonal fruit of your choice!
FOR MOVIE MARATHONS
Popcorn is a great snack, especially for those evenings in front of the silver screen. Pop your corn and drizzle over molten chocolate for a warm and wonderful treat.