It’s February, which means it’s time for Valentines Day…And for many women it means gifts of chocolate or flowers.
Chocolate is an extremely controversial food however. On the one hand, it is considered something unhealthy, and as we hear from many women, “a food that makes me fat!”. The truth though, is that it is not the chocolate but rather the sugar and hydrogenated oils that are added to most varieties of candy bars.
On the other hand, there is the view of dark chocolate as being beneficial for your health. This is closer to the truth for sure, but it gets even better when you buy and use raw chocolate or raw cacao, and make your own delightful deserts. Raw chocolate (or raw cacao) comes with the added benefit of extra mineral, vitamins, and other nutrients that are extraordinary for our health.
Raw and dark (70-85% cacao content) chocolate contain innumerable benefits, here are just a few:
1. Full of minerals; It’s high in iron, magnesium, and manganese (which helps with joint health), zinc, and selenium.
2. It’s full of antioxidants, including polyphenols (which help combat free-radical damage). In fact, cacao seeds may have more antioxidant power than blueberries or acai berries.
3. Chocolate contains compounds that may be protective against heart disease. It also seems to have a protective effect on blood pressure.
4. Chocolate can improve blood flow to the skin, helping it stay hydrated and healthy.
5. Chocolate is great for our brain: it improves cognitive function as well as blood flow to the brain, and seems to correlate with increased verbal fluency (especially in old age).
6. Dark chocolate is more filling than milk chocolate and seems to lessen cravings for sugar (even better is your chocolate treat made with honey instead of refined sugars.
7. During pregnancy, chocolate may reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia.
8. It contains endorphins and precursors to the happy neurotransmitter, serotonin.
9. Consumption of dark chocolate is correlated with increased insulin sensitivity (aka, it’s beneficial for balancing blood sugar).
10. It’s delicious.
Be aware and read labels when you buy chocolate, not all varieties are created equal. Look for fair trade brands, which ensure child labour is not used in the harvesting process. Look for dark, and varieties with no artificial ingredients. lastly, don’t over do it! A little goes a long ways, and too much of anything is not a good thing. Enjoy this fabulous wonder of nature in moderation!
For several ways to make your own “out of this world” chocolate deserts, take a look at the Whole Foods Lifestyle Program. It has many great recipes and tips on how to use this healthy ingredient in your favourite daily meals. Try it today!