A lot of the time we need to focus on things you need to REMOVE in order to get healthy. Once you get on the path to health and wellness it becomes about adding in things.
The advantage of adding in healthier things is that it pushes those unhealthy things away as there becomes no more room for them.
Here’s one that does not have to be eliminated provided that you get the right form of it: Dark chocolate
HOW DARK CHOCOLATE ARRIVED ON THE SCENE:
If you were to ask past girlfriends of mine whether they would have traded me in for chocolate, well I don’t think I want to know the answer…
As big a part as it is in peoples lives now chocolate has been consumed by people for eons.
The Aztecs around 4-5000 years ago were grinding up cocoa beans and combining them with other ingredients to make drinks and porridge. Some of these ancient recipes have survived and can be recreated today.
(an Aztec woman creating foam by pouring from one vessel to another)
These would not be the sweet hot chocolates of today but a thick, foamy very bitter and gritty type drink that most often needed to be consumed through straws as to not get a mouthful of junk.
The name “cocoa” itself comes from the ancient Nahuati language meaning “bitter water”
The Spanish were the first to share chocolate with other peoples and by the 17th century cocoa beans were starting to show up in European ports.
Not surprisingly the French developed more palatable chocolate drinks and by 1650 chocolate was being consumed in England. The French, English and Dutch all developed chocolate into a sweeter product and even started making them into bar form.
No peanut butter cups as of yet though..
The Swiss developed the first milk chocolate in the mid 19th century and Rodolphe Lindt developed the chocolate fondant.
ALL CHOCOLATE IS NOT CREATED EQUAL
The average chocolate bar you’re going to grab off a shelf is not really chocolate. It might have trace amounts but what you’re eating is just a lot of sugar, corn syrup and flavorings.
The real chocolate to focus on here is dark chocolate; specifically at least 70% cocoa solids.
Ideally 85-90% is better. It’s distinctive and somewhat bitter taste can throw people off at first compared to over sugary “chocolate”. However after awhile you come to really appreciate that taste and I know I can’t even touch non dark chocolate now. This is the real chocolate you want to be looking at for how it can provide some very positive health benefits
I’m glad you asked! Here’s 5 reasons why you can benefit from it
1. High Vitamin And Mineral Content
Dark Chocolate naturally contains high levels of:
2. Dark Chocolate Is High In Antioxidants
Antioxidants help to prevent free radical damage in the body. Free radicals are formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. This leads to cell oxidation which can be understood by thinking of rust.
Think of how a paint sealant on a car can help prevent it from rusting and decaying. So are antioxidants to the body, they help prevent damage from cell oxidation which can lead to premature aging, DNA damage, and certain types of cancers. Scientists are really starting to understand the damage brought on by free radicals
Researchers in Italy found the high antioxidant content in dark chocolate would help combat the negative effects of free radical damage in the body. And interestingly milk was shown to interfere with the absorption of antioxidants
3. Dark Chocolate Lowers Blood Pressure
Some more research but this time out of Germany.
An 18 week study looked at otherwise healthy individuals that had higher than optimal blood pressure. Small portions of dark chocolate added into a normal diet were seen to efficiently reduce blood pressure
4. Dark Chocolate Can Help Prevent Cardiovascular Disease
This research out of Australia showed that small daily dark chocolate consumption could potentially avert 70 non fatal and 15 fatal cardiovascular events per 10,000 people treated over 10 years.
Again the studies pointed out using at least 60-70% cocoa solids dark chocolate rather than milk or white chocolate.
An interesting side note is when testing the antioxidant content via the flavonoids and polyphenols a measurement called the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) is used. Basically researches put some “bad” free radicals against certain foods to see how the foods antioxidants disarm them.
Some studies with the testing showed dark chocolate to have higher antioxidant activity than the acai berry or even the powerhouse blueberry. This USDA chart shows the break down for a wide variety of foods and their ORAC score.
Another interesting takeaway. The highest scores for antioxidant content by far go to spices and herbs, specifically things like cloves, cinnamon, oregano etc
5. Dark Chocolate Can Help Manage & Lower Blood Sugar
This might be the most surprising benefit of dark chocolate to some people.
People with diabetes, pre diabetes and insulin resistance have trouble controlling blood sugar levels.
A healthy diet and exercise and specifically strength training can help with naturally lowering blood sugar. What are some of the natural compounds in foods that can help with lowering blood sugar? Polyphenols.
Polyphenols among their many benefits are believed to promote vascular health and glucose control. And with dark chocolate being near the top of the antioxidant content list it can play an effective part in helping keep blood sugar under control.
But “Charlie and the High Antioxidant, Polyphenol Dark Chocolate Factory” doesn’t have the same ring to it..
You might think how can chocolate not negatively effect sugar levels. Well you shouldn’t think of dark chocolate as sugar but actually more as fat.
Dark chocolate contains the fats:
- oleic acid
- palmitic acid
- stearic acid
The oleic acids are the mono-unsaturated type wholesome fats found in olive oil.
This higher fat content is what keeps the glycemic index of dark chocolate low. In case you’re unfamiliar with the glycemic index it is the measure of how quickly blood sugar levels rise after eating certain foods.
Foods that have a G.I of around 60-70 are considered to have a moderate effect on blood sugar levels
Foods that are 55 or less are considered low while items that are 70 or above are considered high.
Dark chocolate is a 23
This glycemic index shows how foods that seem high because of their sugar content but contain some fat will elevate blood sugar more slowly than something that is primarily a low quality, simple carbohydrate.
It’s why a a snickers bar is a a 51 but a piece of whole wheat bread is a 71. The simple, refined carbohydrates in the bread are digested and absorbed very quickly to raise your blood sugar while the fat and nuts in a snickers bar allows blood sugar to be released more slowly.
I’m not saying to go out and make your diet snickers based, unless you’re Rob Ford, but just to show you how certain foods impact your body. You can check out a more in depth list of items and how they effect your blood sugar from the health department at Harvard
And it won’t even cost you $200,000 a year!
One thing kept popping up if you noticed in the studies with dark chocolate; the words small and moderate
The studies were only administering small and moderate doses of chocolate over the course of the studies and that’s the same way it should be incorporated it into your day to day life.
Due to it’s higher fat and calorie content despite relatively small servings you want to not go overboard in consuming dark chocolate thinking you’re immune from the effects of overindulgence.
Moderation will be key. The benefit is you can relieve that sweet tooth but know you are doing some good at the same time. A square or two of dark chocolate every few day is going to help keep those cravings at bay and provide you with its benefits.
The amazing thing with dark chocolate is that it’s more satisfying than sugary milk chocolates that you might feel you can constantly eat and eat. Dark chocolate can keep you more satisfied with smaller portions.
Try this if you feel yourself overwhelmed with wanting sugar. Take a square of dark chocolate and keep under your tongue to slowly melt. This gradual release can help satisfy sugar cravings and more often than not most people don’t feel the need for anymore.
Hopefully I’ve shed some light on the benefits that can come from dark chocolate and how not all chocolate is created equal. Focus on the dark variety of at least 70% cocoa solids but try to get up to 90%
This little treat can be a good asset into getting healthy. And has got me out of the dog house more times than I can remember after forgetting an anniversary..
If you liked this article please feel free to pass it on to someone else who might benefit from learning about dark chocolate. And if you haven’t already make sure to hop on the newsletter on the from below and i’ll also send you the healthy eating starter kit that helps you get on the right path to getting healthy.