Chocolate is one of those sweets that we just can’t seem to stay away from no matter how strict we are with our diets. But if you feel like you need to give up chocolate just to be healthy and lose weight, don’t despair: you don’t have to give it all up!
If we’re talking milk chocolate we won’t have many benefits to mention, we’ll have a list of detriments. Although the taste is nothing short of divine and it can be a decent source of calcium in small doses, most milk chocolate has high quantities of sugar, saturated fats, trans fats and calories that can all increase your weight, raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of developing heart disease or diabetes.
But that taste, though. Isn’t there any kind of chocolate we can eat that’s healthy for us? The answer is yes!
To reap the real benefits of chocolate you have to go straight to the source; cacao. This is the product of the fermented seeds of the cacao tree – or Theobroma cacao, which translates to “food of the gods” – extracted from their pods and left until they turn a dark brown hue, which are then dried, roasted and ground into a thick paste.
Keep in mind, however, that the less pure your chocolate is, the less health benefits you can get from it. You need to make sure you’re eating no less than 70% dark chocolate if you really want the nutritious perks this delicious snack can provide.
A brief history of cacao
Europeans were first introduced to this sacred drink in the 16th century by the Aztec civilization during the campaigns of Hernan Cortes and the conquistadors. It was a tradition that had been passed down from the Maya across the centuries, and it’s known that the Maya civilization held cacao in extremely high regard and consumed it regularly, not just during special ceremonies but during every meal of every day.
But cacao might even be older than that. According to Michael Coe, professor emeritus of anthropology at Yale University, “cacao” is a word that originates from the even more ancient Olmec civilization. And since Olmec culture was such a big influence on Mayan culture, it’s possible that the Maya got their cacao tradition from these very ancient people – meaning that humans may have been consuming chocolate for more than 2, 500 years!
Reasons to eat chocolate often
There are many reasons why cacao is healthy for us. It contains a high quantity of flavanols, which are antioxidant flavonoids found in many plants that have a number of health benefits. Wine, tea, and grapes are other good sources of flavanols. These phytochemicals slow the clumping of blood platelets, which are responsible for blood clots that can result in heart attacks. In fact, just a little chocolate a day is strong enough to lower your chances of getting a heart attack by up to 50%!
Cacao is also known to be a mood enhancer, because it makes the brain produce endorphins and serotonin, which will make you feel happy and reduce stress levels.
Aside from slowing platelet clumping, chocolate can also facilitate better arterial blood flow in men by helping the blood vessels relax, which boosts your cardiovascular health.
Cacao beans are a source of types of fat that aren’t bad for you: stearic acid, which has been seen in studies to not raise cholesterol levels in blood anywhere near as high as other saturated fatty acids, as well as monounsaturated fat and palmitic fatty acid.
Although it might seem counterintuitive, chocolate can also prevent diabetes by reducing the body’s insulin resistance. This is also achieved by the flavonoids by helping the body produce more nitric oxide, responsible for insulin sensitivity.
Cacao can also be healthy for the skin by preventing it from developing burns from sunlight exposure. It can make your body take up to twice as long to develop the beginning signs of sunburn!
There are many more benefits that cocoa provides us, but these are some of the most important and effective.
If you’re craving some 70% pure chocolate you don’t have to look any further to get some – we sell raw, vegan-friendly cacao in a variety of forms right in our online shop. Come on by and take a look at our delicious selection and start reaping the benefits cacao has to offer today!