Hey Angels and Alphas,
It’s been chocolate season for a while now! And with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, this deep, dark, and delicious treat is going to be splashing its way across the corners and shelves of your local grocery store.
The health benefits are touted across countless headlined articles (including this one!) – but is chocolate really a superfood measuring up to the hype of chia seeds, green tea, and other touted superfoods?
Here’s what we know so far.
Numerous studies have found that dark chocolate is highly nutritious, rich in antioxidants, and has the potential to improve your blood flow, lower your blood pressure, increase the “good” type of cholesterol, enhance your skin quality, reduce inflammation, and even improve blood flow to the brain. In fact, chocolate was actually eaten throughout history for its healing properties.
But do the billions of dollars that Americans spend on chocolate annually also equate to billions of health benefits? The answer is a (not-so-surprising) no.
You have to eat a ton of commercially available chocolate if you want to reap its benefits. And you know what comes with that? A ton of calories!
Chocolate is indeed healthy – when it’s in its most whole, pure, raw form. But the chocolate we eat nowadays doesn’t really come packaged that way.
All chocolate begins its journey as just a fruit on a cacao tree. The seeds that grow inside it are something called cocoa beans. Once they’re harvested, these seeds are dried, fermented, and roasted so they develop their deep flavor. The inner nibs are the real start of the bunch with their nutty, crunchy texture. In most chocolate bars, nibs are ground to create a chocolate liquor (this has nothing to do with a cocktail,) which then gets mixed together with milk, sugar, and other ingredients such as spices and vanilla.
So, is there a way in which you can work chocolate in your balanced, healthy diet? Yes, but nibbling on chocolate bars isn’t going to get you there. The more your chocolate gets blended and processed, the less potent are its benefits.
Today, we’re here to explore the health benefits of chocolate, so you can find whether it’s worth it or not to fit it inside your diet.
FIRST, ANTIOXIDANT POWER.
Flavonoids are a type of polyphenol or micronutrient that’s found naturally in plants and it helps protect them from environmental toxins and repair damage. They’re powerful antioxidants and found highly concentrated inside cocoa beans (which are a fruit, by the way.) In high doses, these compounds will carry anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative properties to your body, preventing and restoring your cells.
SECOND, HEART HEALTH.
Flavonols are the main flavonoid that’s naturally found in cocoa beans. They also happen to be responsible for the bitterness we often taste in bars of raw chocolate. Flavonols are especially beneficial to the heart, improving your blood flow, increasing your circulation, reducing the risk of clots, and potentially reducing blood pressure.
THIRD, HEALTHY GUT.
Two of the most potent flavanols you’ll find out there are epicatechin and catechin. Both of them increase blood antioxidant activity, reduce oxidative stress, and even promote better gut health. The presence of both of these inside chocolate improve the quality of bacteria in your gut, increasing the amount of healthy bacteria and reducing the number of pathogenic bacteria. The darker the chocolate, the better it is for your gut.
FOURTH, BETTER IMMUNITY.
The antioxidants found in cocoa beans will help reduce the oxidative stress on your body by inhibiting and reducing the amount of free radicals. Free radicals send our immune systems into overdrive, so it’s important that we keep them under control.
FIFTH, IMPROVED BRAIN HEALTH.
Theobromine and caffeine are two components found in chocolate that boost and improve mood and energy. Both of these substances block your body’s adenosine receptors. This helps you feel more alert. When adenosine initially binds to its receptors, it then slows down neural activity. The result? You begin to feel sleepy.
Some studies have even said chocolate promotes the production of serotonin (the stabilizer of good mood.) But, the reality is most of these mood-boosting compounds are found in a very small quantity of the chocolate we eat. It’s more likely the overall experience we undergo while eating chocolate — that one single moment of instantly satisfying a sweet tooth— that is likely responsible for the “euphoria” we often feel after nibbling on chocolate.