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- All About Chocolate
- How to Choose the Healthiest Chocolate
Chocolate ice cream.
If you’re a self-proclaimed “chocoholic,” the possibilities are endless.
But if you’re also focused on your physical and psychological well-being, you may be wondering how your favorite treat fits into your health goals.
Well, we have great news.
You can be healthy and still enjoy your chocolates!
Let’s take a look at the health benefits of chocolate, so you can see for yourself that chocolate is good for you.
All About Chocolate
Before we reveal which chocolate is healthiest, it helps to understand how chocolate is made.
The raw, unprocessed version of chocolate is known as cacao, which comes from beans harvested from cacao trees. In this, its purest form, it’s actually quite bitter—think of a strong, flavorful dark chocolate.
Once harvested, cacao beans are dried, roasted, and ground to make cocoa butter, alcohol-free cocoa liquor, and cocoa powder.
- Cocoa powder is mostly used as a baking ingredient or to flavor chocolate products such as ice cream, cakes, and cookies.
- The cocoa liquor and cocoa butter are combined with sugar and other substances to make candy bars and other delicious chocolate treats.
Different types of chocolate have different ratios of chocolate to other ingredients. This affects their flavor, color, and texture.
And because chocolate’s benefits come from the amount of cacao or cocoa, the percentage of chocolate contained in your tasty treat also affects how healthy it is.
Let’s explore the different types of chocolate to see which one is healthiest.
How to Choose the Healthiest Chocolate
Just like any other food, not all chocolate is made the same. Some types of chocolate will be healthier than others and naturally offer more benefits.
The health benefits of chocolate come from the cocoa or cacao, not sugar or the other “filler” ingredients. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the better it is for you.
Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding which chocolate to add to your grocery cart.
- White chocolate contains zero cocoa and therefore offers none of its benefits.
- Milk chocolate only has to contain 10% cacao. The added milk products give it its smooth, creamy taste and texture.
- Semi-sweet chocolate and bittersweet chocolate contain a minimum of 35% cacao. The lower the cacao percentage, the sweeter the taste; the higher the cacao percentage, the more bitter. Dark chocolate usually contains 70-99% cacao.
- Unsweetened or bitter chocolate is made of 100% cacao. It’s extremely bitter and is usually only used as an ingredient.
Dark chocolate, which contains a high cacao ratio without being overly bitter.
But what are the health benefits of dark chocolate? Let’s find out!
8 Health Benefits of Chocolate
It may be hard to believe that your favorite treat is actually quite good for you. But in the case of chocolate, it’s true.
Dark chocolate, with a cacao ratio of 70% or higher, is one of the healthiest forms of chocolate and is what is used to determine its benefits.
With that in mind, here are some of the biggest benefits you’ll get when you indulge your dark chocolate craving.
The Top 10 Antioxidant Foods to Include in Your Diet
1. Provides Crucial Antioxidants
Dark chocolate is known for its rich flavor—and being rich in antioxidants.
Antioxidants are molecules, mainly plant-based, that fight free radicals, unstable molecules that cause premature aging, illnesses, and chronic disease.
Here are some of the positive benefits of antioxidants.
- They can lower oxidative stress, which can cause cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, and other diseases.
- Although antioxidants neither reverse nor halt the aging process, they do promote healthy aging. Their physical and psychological benefits include improving memory, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and supporting strong bones.
- Antioxidants significantly reduce inflammation and inflammatory responses, cutting back on common inflammation symptoms such as headaches, joint aches, and muscle pain.
Another important role that antioxidants play in your body is keeping your gut microbiome healthy.
Your gut is teeming with bacteria, both beneficial (“good” bacteria) and pathogenic (“bad” bacteria). For optimal health, your body needs the right balance, with a prevalence of beneficial bacteria.
Research shows that antioxidants encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria, which balances your gut and promotes your physical, emotional, and mental health.
Along with eating dark chocolate, you can also make sure you’re getting your daily dose of antioxidants with a daily dose of Just Thrive Probiotic, which provides both clinically-proven beneficial bacteria and antioxidants in one easy-to-swallow capsule.
2. Offers a Variety of Nutrients
Along with its antioxidant power, dark chocolate also contains a number of other nutrients.
- Copper: a 100-gram serving provides 100% of your daily recommended copper
- Iron: 10 mg per 100 grams
- Magnesium: 250 mg per 100 grams
Dark chocolate also contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid which aids in the production of serotonin, as well as zinc (important for immune and metabolism function).
Unfortunately, dark chocolate, or any chocolate, can also be high in sugar, calories, and fat. Although you’re getting a solid amount of nutrients, it’s still best to eat chocolate in moderation or choose the most unprocessed form you can find.
3. Banishes Stress
Have you ever reached for a chocolate bar when you felt stressed?
It wasn’t just a craving for sweets; your body knew what it needed to feel its best. Making you feel calm and relaxed is one of the biggest health benefits of dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate is linked to activity in the parts of your brain typically associated with pleasure and reward. This triggers positive emotions and helps reduce or even eliminate feelings of stress.
Another study shows that eating dark chocolate daily can reduce symptoms of clinical depression.
4. Boosts Brain Power
Another wonderful benefit of dark chocolate is improved cognitive skills.
This is especially relevant in the area of neuroplasticity, that is, your brain’s ability to create new neural pathways and connections.
The most current research shows that 48 grams of dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao can impact your neuroplasticity, creating positive impacts on your memory, cognition, and mood.
5. Promotes Heart Health
Is chocolate the way to your heart? It’s certainly one way to a healthier heart!
In fact, research shows that people who regularly consume dark chocolate are less likely to suffer from heart attacks, heart failure, and fatal heart disease.
Here are some of the ways in which dark chocolate can improve your cardiovascular health.
- The magnesium contained in dark chocolate helps regulate your cardiovascular system
- The antioxidants keep your arteries free from plaque, which improves blood flow, clears plaque from your blood vessels, and lowers the risk of heart disease.
- The flavonoids in chocolate may lower your blood pressure.
Dark chocolate also encourages your blood vessels to relax, which can lower your blood pressure and further promote your heart health.
6. Lowers Risk of Diabetes
One beneficial compound found in dark chocolate is flavanol, a type of flavonoid that often acts as an antioxidant.
Among other beneficial effects, flavonoids have been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, which in turn regulates your blood sugar levels and reduces the risk of diabetes.
But, it’s important to remember that this benefit is closely tied to the type of chocolate you choose. If you’re worried about developing diabetes, or currently have diabetes, opt for a dark chocolate that’s low in added sugar.
7. Improves Vision
Another reason why dark chocolate is good for you is that it can improve your vision.
Studies show that young people who eat chocolate regularly exhibit better vision. This is due to chocolate increasing your blood flow throughout your body, including your brain and your retina.
The increased blood flow enhances your visual performance, improving your ability to detect motion and see letters with lower contrast.
8. Assists Weight Management
A diet that includes regularly consuming chocolate? Believe it or not, there’s actual proof that it works.
- Eating a small amount of chocolate before or after a meal can signal to your brain that you’re full, decreasing the chances of overeating.
- Dark chocolate has been shown to act as a prebiotic in your gut microbiome. Prebiotics provide fuel for the colonies of beneficial bacteria in your gut, helping them thrive and grow. And a healthy gut microbiome is linked to a healthy metabolism and weight control.
- Finally, another study showed that chocolate, even milk chocolate, boosts metabolism and curbs hunger, helping you manage your weight.
Healthy Chocolate Treats
Sure, you can enjoy your dark chocolate “as is”—in a chocolate bar, cake, cookie, ice cream, or whatever you prefer.
But with a little bit of creativity, you can boost the health benefits of your chocolate by pairing it with other nourishing foods.
- Sprinkle dark chocolate shavings or cacao nibs into your yogurt.
- Add chocolate chips to your granola.
- Mix your chocolate with nuts for a tasty mid-afternoon snack.
- Blend chocolate and peanut butter for a delicious smoothie.
- Instead of buying processed, sugary, hot chocolate, melt dark chocolate into milk for your hot chocolate.
- Mix a healthy chocolate drink mix into your milk of choice or water. We love Cacao Bliss because it’s vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, keto-friendly, and organic, and is loaded with nutritious ingredients including raw cacao, turmeric, black pepper, MCT powder, and cinnamon.
Use your imagination and add dark chocolate to your diet to enjoy the taste and the health benefits.
If dark chocolate is one of your go-to snacks, you can give in to your cravings, guilt-free.
Of course, like any food, we encourage moderation and purchasing quality organic chocolate with minimal sugar, for the best flavor and maximum health benefits.
But with studies showing that it’s actually good for you, you can make your taste buds happy with your favorite treat.
Delicious and healthy. Enjoy!
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