What if I told you that eating the right type of chocolate everyday can help you lose weight, prevent diabetes, lower cholesterol, improve memory and prevent strokes?
Sounds too good to be true, but let’s look at the research so you can add this tiny piece of heaven to your diet without feeling guilty or expanding your waistline.
Fact is, the right chocolate does the body good.
Here are the need-to-know facts on this sinfully delicious treat.
THE HISTORY OF CHOCOLATE
Dating back 4000 years ago, chocolate was actually consumed as a bitter beverage instead of a sweet treat that you munch on.
There is actually evidence that chocolate was produced in the pre-Olmec cultures in Mexico during the time period of 1900 B.C.
It was produced through roasting and then grinding down the cocoa beans into a paste that was then mixed with water, vanilla, honey, and a few chili peppers amongst other spices to brew what they considered a delicious beverage.
Back then they believed that it had mystical and spiritual qualities, so it was used primarily as a mood enhancer and aphrodisiac.
Fast forward to today and we obviously see chocolate in many different forms; desserts, ice creams, syrups, beverages, puddings, mousses, as well as hard chocolate.
And it pairs well with a variety of other foods as well. Red wine, fruit, nuts, seeds, caramel candies, nut butters, and even toast by making a hazelnut chocolate spread.
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FUN & INTERESTING CHOCOLATE FACTS
• The very first chocolate bar was created in 1847 and was made from cocoa butter, cocoa powder, and sugar.
• Rodolphe Lindt, which we know today as the famous Lindt chocolate brand, created the very first machine in 1879 that produced chocolate with that delicious texture and taste. It was after this that mass production of chocolate began.
• The average American consumes around 12 pounds of chocolate each year.
• The total earnings of chocolate in the world? Around 75 billion dollars. Clearly we love our chocolate!
• It takes about 4000 cacao beans to produce one pound of chocolate.
• Think chocolate is a high source of caffeine? You might want to think again. One serving of milk chocolate only has about the same level of caffeine as a cup of decaf coffee. Now you can enjoy your chocolate without worrying about how you’ll sleep later that night!
• It can take two to four days to create just one chocolate bar.
• It takes a cacao tree four to five years before it will start producing its first beans.
Now that you know some fun and interesting facts about chocolate, let’s get to the nittygritty and dive into all the health benefits that chocolate has to offer.
AMAZING HEALTH BENEFITS OF EATING MORE CHOCOLATE
If you’re looking for a legitimate excuse to indulge in more chocolate, look no further than the research.
Health Benefit #1: Rich in Iron
Iron is an essential mineral that we all need in our diet in order to prevent iron-deficiency anemia. Anemia occurs when we aren’t getting enough iron and this causes our red blood cell count to drop, making it harder to get the oxygen required to the working muscle tissues.
The result? High levels of fatigue, especially during exercise. If you seem to gas out quickly in the gym, you may be suffering from iron-deficiency anemia.
Fortunately, you can quickly overcome this by adding iron-rich foods to your diet, and chocolate is an excellent source. It provides 67% of the RDA for iron with just a single 100 gram serving (assuming a 70-85% cocoa content).
Health Benefit #2: High Antioxidant Content
Another excellent benefit to take note of is the high level of antioxidants that chocolate provides.
Antioxidants work in the body to defend against oxidation, which can slowly eat away at your body’s cells. This is what accelerates aging and leads to many of today’s most deadly diseases.
Antioxidants neutralize the free radicals that cause oxidation, helping ensure you always feel and function your best. Dark chocolate contains a number of different antioxidants including polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins.
Furthermore, some research suggests that dark chocolate from cacao seeds contain more antioxidants than many fruits do.
Health Benefit #3: Boosts Heart Health
Research shows that dark chocolate can increase the levels of good cholesterol (HDL) in the body while lowering the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) as well.
Health Benefit #4: Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure means more stress on your arteries and puts you at a higher risk for stroke.
The flavanols that are found in dark chocolate may help to stimulate the lining of the arteries to produce nitric oxide, which causes the arteries to dilate and allow for better blood flow3. This in turn can help to lower your blood pressure levels.
This is not to say you should stop taking your blood pressure medication, but adding chocolate to your diet can help provide a little extra support.
Health Benefit #5: Protection from Sun Damage
Skin cancer is growing at alarming rates so sun protection in today’s day and age is more important than ever. The good news is that dark chocolate may provide some additional protection.
The flavanols that are found in dark chocolate help to improve blood flow to the skin and may increase the density and hydration of the cells. This in turn can help to improve your skin’s ability to withstand UVB rays and decrease signs of redness at any given sun exposure time.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you should ditch your sun tan lotion, but now you have a legitimate excuse to eat dark chocolate when you head out to the beach.
Health Benefit #6: Improved Focus and Alertness
Because chocolate does have a very small dose of caffeine, this may help to improve your cognition and enhance alertness. While you won’t get as much stimulation as you would from say a cup of coffee, you can rest assured that you will feel a bit of a boost.
Additionally, chocolate can help to lower stress levels helping improve your overall energy levels.
Research also illustrates that consuming dark chocolate may improve blood flow to the brain, which can also boost your brain power and focus.
Health Benefit #7: Lower Insulin Resistance
Finally, one last benefit that cacao has to offer that you’ll want to take note of is that it can boost insulin sensitivity and combat insulin resistance.
Research published in the Hypertension journal noted that those who consumed 100 grams per day of dark chocolate showed greater protection against insulin resistance compared to those who consumed 90 grams per day of flavanol-free white chocolate.
This will help you manage your weight and help prevent the development of diabetes.
HOW CHOCOLATE HELPS YOU BURN FAT
Speaking of fat, did you know that adding chocolate to your diet may actually help you burn fat faster?
Many people associate eating chocolate with fat storage or rapid weight gain, but as long as you eat chocolate in moderation and choose the right type, it can help you reach your goals faster.
A Japanese physician and professor, Dr. Hiroshige Itakura, at Ibaraki Christian University, who specializes in “lifestyle diseases” like hypertension and hardening of the arteries, was interviewed in an issue of the Japanese lifestyle magazine called Shukan Gendai.
He says that eating chocolate CAN help you lose weight. You just have to know how to eat chocolate under the right conditions.
Here are some guidelines he suggests so you can eat chocolate for faster fat loss.
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• The darker the better. The more cocoa in the chocolate, the lower the sugar content. Make sure to consume 70% or higher cocoa. If you can tolerate the darkest bitter chocolate at 99% you’ll take in virtually no sugar.
• All types of chocolate are quite high in calories, so portion control is key. Eat no more than 1.8 ounces, about 300 calories.
• It should be broken up and consumed during or before meals.
• Following these guidelines daily for a month could lead to a loss of 4.4 to 6.6 pounds.
Other fat burning benefits include…
Fat Burning Benefit #1: Combats Food Cravings
We all experience cravings when dieting. It’s probably the biggest challenge when trying to shed unwanted pounds.
Well, consuming a small square of dark chocolate each day (or at a frequency you desire), may help to combat cravings for this food you love, thus making it easier to stick with your fat loss diet plan the rest of the time.
Fat Burning Benefit #2: Dietary Fiber & Friendly Fats
Chocolate does have a fairly high level of fat. A one ounce serving of dark chocolate (85%), weighs in at 163 calories, 12.8 grams of dietary fat, 10.6 grams of carbs, and 3.5 grams of protein.
Of those carbs, a whopping 4.3 grams of them are dietary fiber and only 3.5 grams are sugar. Therefore, you’re actually getting more dietary fiber in this treat than you are sugar. Now you can see how it can help lower your cholesterol level and boost heart health.
And if you’re scared of the 12.8 grams of dietary fat—don’t be. Even though 7.8 of those grams come from saturated fat—it’s actually a healthy source of saturated fat that can help keep testosterone and other hormone levels normalized. And since this saturated fat is coming from a healthy food source (rather than say a deep fried plate of French fries), it’s fine to eat in moderation.
The fat content combined with the dietary fiber is another reason it helps curb cravings.
Fat Burning Benefit #3: Energizing Source of Fuel
Finally, chocolate can be a great source of energy as you go about your day.
Carbohydrates normally provide a surge in blood sugar, but the dietary fiber found in chocolate can help minimize the insulin spike. Couple this with the slow-burning energy found in the dietary fats means that a piece of chocolate can provide you with a steady stream of energy.
Now you don’t have to feel guilty for indulging in piece no matter how strict your diet happens to be.
PROS OF CHOCOLATE
• Rich source of vitamins and minerals
• Provides great antioxidant support
• Helps combat the cravings many people experience while dieting
• May help to lower the risk for cardiovascular disease
• Can provide an instant pick-me-up and increase cognitive alertness
• Provides slower burning energy
• Delicious taste
• May decrease your risk factor for diabetes
CONS OF CHOCOLATE
• Is high in calorie content
• Can be loaded with sugar if the right variety is not consumed
• Easy to overeat
• May cause insomnia if consumed too close to bedtime for those who are sensitive to caffeine
BEST & WORST TYPES OF CHOCOLATE
Now you’ve gotten a mini crash course on the benefits of eating chocolate, let’s discuss which types to eat and which types to avoid.
First up, classic milk chocolate, which is a mixture of cocoa, milk, and sugar. This type of chocolate typically contains about 10-20% cocoa solids and more than 12% milk solids.
It’s very sweet and the kind often used in baking or in commercial chocolate bars.
Then you have semi-sweet chocolate. This is a dark chocolate variety that has a lower sugar content and contains more cocoa. Usually it’s around 40-62% cocoa content, therefore will have more of a bitter taste to it. However, it’s not as bitter as pure dark chocolate since the sugar content is still relatively high.
Dark chocolate is the form of chocolate that contains the most cocoa and the least amount of sugar. It can range from 70% cocoa solids to 99% cocoa solids depending on the bar. As I previously mentioned, this is the best type of chocolate to eat.
White chocolate is another variation of chocolate but actually doesn’t contain any cocoa, so is not true chocolate. Instead, it contains cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla, and usually some type of emulsifier as well.
COCOA VS CACAO
Finally, it’s very important to know the difference between cocoa and cacao.
Cacao refers to any foods that come from the cacao bean, such as raw cacao nibs, raw cacao butter, raw cacao paste or raw cacao powder.
Cocoa is simply raw cacao that has been roasted at very high temperatures. This is the key difference between the two as roasting at these high temperatures can change the overall structure of the cocoa bean, changing the enzyme content and nutritional values.
Raw cacao powder on the other hand is made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans.
When we talk about all the amazing health benefits noted above, we are referring to cacao, not cocoa.
This is an important distinction to note since most of the products you purchase commercially from the grocery store contain cocoa which is not nearly as healthy for you.
In fact, raw cacao powder is often considered a “super-food” because of it’s incredibly high antioxidant content.
One of my favorite ways to consume raw cacao powder is by putting a tablespoon in my coffee along with some stevia to sweeten. It’s delicious.
Storing your chocolate the right way is important to ensure that it maintains optimal freshness (so it tastes as good as it should) and so that it sustains the antioxidant benefits that it has to offer, so avoid buying in bulk.
Next, if you are storing solid chocolate, aim to store it at around 64-68 degrees F.
If properly stored, you can keep it for up to a year, but it’ll taste best when eaten within a few months.
If possible, store your chocolate in a vacuum sealed container and place in a dark room or drawer.
Don’t have a vacuum sealer machine at home? Not to worry, most of us don’t. Storing it in a tightly sealed Ziploc bag inside a Tupperware container should do the trick nicely.
Finally, avoid storing your chocolate with or around other highly scented foods or objects (such as that glorious vanilla scented candle you love to burn on a cold winter’s night).
Cacao butter in the chocolate will absorb odors very well, so if stored around these items, you may just notice your chocolate now has hints of vanilla to it – and not in a good way.
If it is the summer months, if it is very warm inside you may choose to store it in the fridge, but avoid leaving it in there for more than a couple days. This can impact the taste quality of the chocolate.
Ok, now it’s time to get cooking…
Here are some delicious recipes that include dark chocolate and offer amazing health benefits.
ALMOND BUTTER CHOCOLATE BROWNIES
Looking for a yummy desert to serve next time you’re having company over? Try this delicious chocolate peanut butter iced brownie recipe. Your guests won’t even know they’re eating healthy – but sure will appreciate it.
• 4 tbsp. of coconut flour
• ¼ cup of chocolate whey protein powder
• ¾ cup of liquid egg whites
• 3 tbsp. cacao powder
• 1 tbsp. of vanilla stevia
• ½ cup of almond milk
• ½ cup almond butter
• 1 scoop vanilla casein protein powder
• Enough almond milk to thin the icing out
Directions: Blend together all the ingredients in the brownies and then bake at 335 F for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Combine icing ingredients and then smear over top until ready to serve.
CHOCOLATE FLECKED BANANA BREAD
Who doesn’t love banana bread? Now you can indulge without the guilt. This balanced recipe combines healthy carbs from the bananas, two types of protein, and great fats that will help keep your energy level stable for hours to come.
• ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
• ¼ cup vanilla whey
• ¼ cup casein vanilla
• 2 bananas (overripe)
• 1/3 cup egg whites
• 3 tbsp. coconut flour
• ¼ cup walnuts
• 2 squares dark chocolate
• 2 tbsp. Stevia
• ½ tsp. baking powder
Directions: Blend all the ingredients except the dark chocolate together, pour into a loaf pan (or you
can do individual muffins if preferred). Break the dark chocolate up into pieces and then drop into the batter. Bake at 335 F for 45-50 minutes.
CHOCOLATE COCONUT PROTEIN BARS
If you’re looking for a sweet treat on the go, you can’t go wrong with this recipe. These coconut protein bars provide a great dose of energizing medium chain triglyceride fats along with lean protein to balance out the snack. Take one with you wherever you go and you’ll always be prepared.
• 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
• ¼ cup coconut flour
• ¼ cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes
• 3 squares dark chocolate
• ¼ cup almond milk
• 2 tbsp. dried unsweetened coconut flakes
Directions: Mix together the vanilla protein powder, coconut flour, unsweetened coconut flakes, and
almond milk. Form into a batter. Break up 1 square of dark chocolate and mix it in. Form into bars. Melt 2 squares of dark chocolate over medium heat. Once melted, dip the bars into the chocolate to coat. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp. dried unsweetened coconut flakes and then place in the freezer to set (about 10-15 minutes). Serve immediately or place in the fridge until serving.
CREAMY CHOCOLATE SPREAD
Looking for an alternative to the processed Nutella you find in the grocery store?
The chocolate-hazelnut combination is absolutely delicious but you definitely don’t want the added unhealthy sugar in that spread. This one keeps things healthy by utilizing honey instead.
• 1 cup hazelnuts
• ¼ cup cacao powder
• 4 tbsp. honey
• 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
• 1 tbsp. hazelnut oil
• 2 tbsp. Stevia
Directions: Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Once finished, use a towel to rub the skins off. Grind them up in a food processor and then add the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth and then store in an air-tight container in the fridge.
Now you know exactly what chocolate does to your body… always remember to watch your portion control and choose only brands that are 70% or higher cocoa solids.
Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to read this!