Do you know The Health Benefits of Chocolate? Season of the cacao bean! The rich, dark, delicious sweet delight is splattering its way across the shelves and corners of almost every grocery store and gift shop as Valentine’s Day approaches. Numerous publications (including this one) and packaging claim the health advantages of chocolate, but does it truly rank as a superfood on par with chia seeds, blueberries, and green tea?
What we do know is that dark chocolate is very nutritive, and antioxidant-rich, and may increase blood flow, lower blood pressure, raise HDL cholesterol, reduce inflammation, improve blood flow to the brain, improve skin quality, and lessen the risk of heart disease. In truth, people have long consumed chocolate for its alleged therapeutic benefits.
Each year, Americans spend billions of dollars—more than $20 billion, to be exact—on chocolate. Do those millions of claimed health benefits add up to billions then? Not exactly.
To get the benefits, you must consume a lot of commercially available chocolate. And do you know what a lot of commercial chocolate contains? several calories.
Like most things, chocolate is healthiest in its most natural, unadulterated state. But most chocolate does not come in this kind of packaging.
Every type of chocolate, including white, dark, milk, nibs, bars, chips, cocoa powder, and cacao, starts off as a fruit on the cacao tree. Cacao (also known as cocoa) beans are the names of the seeds that develop inside these fruits. These seeds are gathered, fermented, dried, and finally roasted to bring out their flavour. The real draw is the crunchy, earthy, and nutty inside nibs. The nibs are typically ground to make a chocolate liquor (which has nothing to do with a cocktail) that is then combined with sugar, milk powders, and additional ingredients like lecithin, spices, and vanilla to produce various flavours and textures in the majority of chocolate bars and products that are sold to consumers.
So, is it possible to incorporate chocolate into a well-rounded, nutritious diet? Of course, but it’s not quite as easy as munching on a chocolate bar. The potency of chocolate decreases with increased mashing, blending, and processing.
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF CHOCOLATE
1. ANTIOXIDANT POWER
Plants naturally contain flavonoids, a particular class of polyphenols that aids in defending them from pollutants and mending the damage. The cocoa bean, a fruit, contains a highly concentrated source of these extra-powerful antioxidants. These potent substances have anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic effects that, in large amounts, may prevent cellular harm. Flavonoids make up more than 10% of the weight of cocoa powder; that’s a lot!
2. HEART HELPERS
The primary flavonoid present in cocoa beans is flavanol. They are also to blame for the bitterness we frequently detect in unprocessed chocolate. Flavanols are very good for the heart since they increase circulation, improve blood flow, lessen the risk of clotting, and may even lower blood pressure.
3. GOOD GUT BUILDERS
Epicatechin and catechin, two of the most effective flavanols found in chocolate, boost blood antioxidant activity, reduce oxidative stress, and may even improve gastrointestinal health. When both epicatechin and catechin are present, our gut microbiota may be of higher quality, resulting in more “good bugs” and fewer pathogenic bacteria. Because these effects were lessened when paired with milk, the darker the chocolate, the better.
4. IMMUNITY BOOSTERS
By preventing and lowering the number of free radicals in the bloodstream, the antioxidants in cocoa beans help minimise oxidative stress. Free radicals have the power to activate our immune systems to their maximum capacity!
5. BRAIN BOOSTERS
The ingredients in chocolate that improve mood and give you more energy include theobromine and caffeine. Both of these drugs prevent adenosine receptors from being reactivated, making you feel more alert. Adenosine lowers neuronal activity and makes you feel sleepy when it binds to its receptors. According to several research, chocolate contains the amino acid phenylalanine and helps to produce serotonin, which is a chemical that stabilises mood (the love molecule). But in actuality, the majority of these substances are only present in very trace amounts in the chocolate we consume. It’s more likely that the “euphoria” we frequently experience after nibbling on a few bits of chocolate is brought on by the experience we have when eating it – that instant of rapidly gratifying a food demand.
So, are we allowed to have our cake and eat it too? Yes, but the better chocolate is the darker, less sweet variety. Here are some advantages of eating chocolate in all its forms.
THE BENEFITS OF DIFFERENT CHOCOLATE FORMS
In fact, cacao nibs in their purest form are among the healthiest types of chocolate. In addition to being high in flavonoids and antioxidants, cacao nibs are also high in protein and fibre, with just 2 tablespoons of nibs containing 5 grammes of fibre and 2.5 grammes of protein. They aren’t sweet, though. All of the minerals, lipids, and fibre found in cacao beans are present in cacao nibs. No sugar is present in chocolate in its raw, uncommon state. In the procedure, all sugar is added. The nibs have a texture similar to coffee beans and have an earthy, slightly bitter flavour.
- Stir nibs into the chia pudding.
- Toss them into granola, granola bars and energy bites.
- Fold them into waffles and pancake batters.
By separating the cocoa butter from the fluid produced by crushed nibs, cocoa powder (and cacao; more on the differences, below) is created. In essence, it is a concentrated supply of those polyphenols and flavonoids! Chocolate with a higher cocoa powder content has stronger antioxidant potential and strength. Cocoa powder has fewer calories than the majority of other types of chocolate (about 12 per tablespoon). Minerals including magnesium, copper, and iron are abundant in it as well.
Cacao powder and cocoa powder are quite similar, although cacao is closer to its natural condition than cocoa since cocoa undergoes a second stage of high-heat roasting and processing. Certain of the bitterness as well as some antioxidants are taken out during this “Dutch processing.” Both are both highly healthy, but cacao powder is frequently regarded as one of the best sources available for antioxidants!
- Blend into smoothies.
- Bake into muffins or zucchini bread.
- Mix it with other healthy fruits like avocados or bananas for a delightfully refreshing sweet treat
Blend into smoothies.
It tastes deliciously refreshing when combined with other nutritious fruits like avocados or bananas to make a sweet treat.
The complexity of chocolate begins at this point. Each bar is unique. The majority of the benefits of the raw, nutritious chocolates stated above are mitigated and diluted by the addition of a lot of sugar, milk solids, fats, and even chemicals. The highest concentrations of flavonoids and polyphenols can be found in bars with more than 70% cacao. Find a dark bar that you enjoy, and eat it in moderation. A high-quality, concentrated bar can frequently satisfy a sweet appetite in one or two bites.
The Health Benefits of Chocolate
This category of sweets is probably not the best location to discover antioxidants if you want to up your consumption! While MyFitnessPal includes a sizable selection of chocolate-filled baked goods that are healthier for you, you are best off avoiding items that are high in calories, added sugars, and refined grains.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The health advantages of cocoa come from the cocoa bean itself, not from chocolate bars. The advantages of chocolate decrease with more processing. Work powders and nibs into healthful foods to maximise flavour and benefits if you really want to increase your antioxidant consumption.