Health Benefits of Chocolate
“Chocolate comes from cocoa, which comes from a tree. That makes it a plant. Therefore, chocolate is a salad.”
That saying is true, technically, chocolate IS a plant. However, it doesn’t contain quite the same benefits as salad. It’s not typically low calorie like salad either (unfortunately). Believe it or not, chocolate does have some positive health benefits of its own!
The Theobroma cacao, a tropical tree mostly found in Africa, grows cacao pods. First, the pods are harvested which involved breaking them open to get the beans inside. Next, the beans are fermented, which changes them to a dark brown color. Finally, the beans are dried and then shipped to factories.
In the factory, the cacao beans are roasted at high temperatures then cracked open, which turns into cacao nibs. An edible form of chocolate, but super bitter! From there, the cacao nibs are crushed down into a thick paste and combined with cocoa butter, milk, vanilla, sugar, and soy lecithin. Finally, after running the chocolate mixture through a series of machines, heating it, cooling it, and melting it into molds, you have chocolate!
Let’s back up to the cacao nibs. Organic, raw cacao is known as a superfood due to it being nutrient dense and rich in phytonutrients and flavonoids such as sulfur, magnesium, and phenylethylamine. This mood boosting superfood is known to improve focus and alertness. Consuming pure cacao can be a source of fiber and iron as well, promoting bowel regularity and preventing anemia. This is not true however with just any chocolate bar at the grocery store, only cacao nibs and pure cacao.
Now, onto good ol’ chocolate. That delicious sweet, smooth, rich chocolate doesn’t only taste good, but in small amounts is also good for you! We aren’t talking about just any chocolate, we’re talking about dark chocolate- the higher the percentage the better. Compared to milk chocolate, dark chocolate contains powerful antioxidants that aid in protecting our bodies from disease and damage by neutralizing free radicals. Antioxidants aren’t the only ones that deserve the spotlight in dark chocolate, flavonoids deserve it as well! Dark chocolate, rich with flavonoids, have been shown to improve heart health. Studies have shown that the consumption of flavonoid rich chocolate has a positive effect on blood pressure, cholesterol, and circulation. (1)
As always, consume dark chocolate in moderation along with a healthy diet and regular exercise. So next time you’re at the grocery store, find yourself some dark chocolate, and enjoy a sweet treat and positive health benefits as well!