The pleasure of that velvety, rich, melt-in-your-mouth experience you get from eating chocolate is actually good for you – you should eat more chocolate! Follow these tips on where to find the healthiest chocolate. This is going to be the best advice you’ll ever read. (It’s such a treat, you’re going to want to share this blog with all of your friends!) Plus, don’t miss the 6 reasons why you should eat more chocolate.
Go ahead! Nibble on a chunk of dark chocolate! There should be no guilt in indulging in luscious, molten, dark chocolate-filled moments. It won’t cause weight gain. In fact, weight loss experts agree that you can lose weight and eat chocolate.
Yes! In fact, scientists suggest you should eat more of it! Chronic consumption of flavonoids found in dark chocolate may lower your risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. But, buyer beware: not all chocolates are created equally. To find the healthiest chocolate, you’ll need to understand the nitty-gritty details of this treasured treat.
Raise your hand if you’re a chocoholic? (Yes, my hand is waving in the air!) Whether chocolate is a mainstay in your daily eating plan or an occasional treat, become a chocolate snob. Chocolate comes in many forms, most of which are not healthy for you. Here are 4 tips for finding the healthiest chocolate for you and the planet:
Chocolate is made from cacao beans, or rather, the seeds that are found in pods-like fruits on the Theobroma cacao tree. Cocoa means the powder that is left after pressing the fat out of the ground beans. Cacao could be from the pods, beans, or ground-up contents of the beans. In other words, the word cacao is usually used to imply the product is less processed than cocoa.
Chocolate bars, also known as candy bars, comprised of varying amounts of sugar, cocoa butter (fat from cocoa beans), cocoa solids (dark, bitter, flavanol-rich part of cocoa beans), and milk (in the case of milk chocolate). Be wary of lower-quality chocolate candy, as they can also contain vegetable oils, butterfat, artificial colors, or flavours. Most people, about 72%, buy lower quality chocolate candies. But, not you! You are going to be a chocolate snob and get the healthiest chocolate you can. The addition of these unhealthy ingredients would have the noses of chocolate connoisseurs raised high in a look of disgust. Be picky about your chocolate! The most popular chocolate treats consumed contain added sugar, butter, and artificial flavour. There is 23% more sugar in confectionery chocolate today than 15 years ago. That means there are 10 grams more sugar in a 100-gram serving of your favorite chocolate treat. According to the World Health Organization, 25 grams of sugar is all adults should eat in a day. In addition, chocolate bars tend to use low-quality cocoa powder which contains fewer flavonoids than pure cacao or dark chocolate products.
The biggest difference between milk chocolate and dark chocolate besides the milk is how much cocoa solids they contain. Dark chocolate typically contains 50 to 90% cocoa solids, while milk chocolate has as little as 10%. Cocoa solids are the healthiest part! If you want to sink your teeth into the healthiest chocolate, go for cocoa powder, or dark chocolate which contains at least 85% cocoa.
Nibbling on a piece of sweet, deep brown chocolate is such a pleasurable experience. Chocolate has a fascinating impact on your brain. It is an excellent source of tryptophan, the amino acid needed to create serotonin. Eating chocolate triggers the release of serotonin and endorphins – brain chemicals that regulate your mood. That’s why eating chocolate makes you feel good!
Dark chocolate contains flavanol-rich cocoa. Flavanols are plant chemicals that may help protect the heart. Flavanols support the production of nitric oxide which helps the inside of blood vessels relax, which improves blood flow and ultimately lowers blood pressure. In fact, eating more chocolate was linked with a lower risk of heart disease, discovered researchers who surveyed over 20,000 men and women in England about their chocolate consumption.
Eating dark chocolate helps boost your memory and attention! Researchers from Mexico investigated what happens to the brain when people eat chocolate. The brain’s oscillations (ability to make an electrical output that helps the brain send messages needed for cognition, memory, perception, and behaviour) went off like fireworks. More blood flow and neuron activity in the brain occurs when dark chocolate flavonoids are in your system.
Diabetics can eat chocolate all day long, suggests the International Journal of Preventative Medicine, in a study of type 2 diabetes. Participants who ate a small piece of dark chocolate 5 times a day (30 g in total) caused a reduction in inflammatory markers in their blood. Of note, for pre-diabetics, studies show the flavanols in dark chocolate may increase insulin sensitivity.
Yes, eating chocolate can be part of a healthy lifestyle that promotes weight loss. (However, we aren’t talking about a chocolate-focused eating plan.) One study suggests chocolate can be part of a healthy eating plan that promotes weight management. In a California-based study, 84 adults ate 2 grams of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate every day and reduced their waist circumference
Researchers published in the journal Heart, suggested at least one serving a week if you’re a female (age 50-64) is good for your health. For men, it’s 2 to 6 servings per week. Eating chocolate was found in the study to reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation by 21% in females and 23% in males. As 1 in 4 adults are estimated to experience atrial fibrillation (a heart rhythm irregularity) in their lifetime, it’s clear that science is telling us we should eat more chocolate!
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Chocolate intake and risk of clinically apparent atrial fibrillation: the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health Study. Heart 2017; 103: 1163-1167.
Daily chocolate consumption is inversely associated with insulin resistance and liver enzymes in the Observation of Cardiovasular Risk Factors in Luxembourg study. Br J Nutr 2016 May; 155(9): 1661-1668.
Cross-sectional survey of the amount of sugar and energy in chocolate confectionery sold in the UK in 1992 and 2017. Nutrients 2019 Aug; 11(8):1798.
Daily consumption of chocolate rich in flavonoids decreases cellular genotoxicity and improves biochemical parameters of lipid and glucose metabolism. Molecules 2018 Sep; 23(9): 2220.
Contributed by Allison Tannis
Known for her deliciously geeky words, Allison’s articles and books are read around the world by those curious about where to find the most delicious (and nutritious) places to stick their forks. More at allisontannis.com. Follow @deliciouslygeeky.