Chocolate, the healthy gift this Valentine's Day. It may sound crazy, but it's true! Studies show that dark chocolate in particular is good for your health — when consumed in moderation.
by The Iowa Clinic on Wednesday, February 3, 2016
The Magic Ingredient
What sets dark chocolate apart is cacao — the main ingredient that gives dark chocolate its super powers and distinct flavor. Cacao is packed with antioxidants and healthy chemicals like flavonoids, which studies have linked to cancer prevention, reductions in circulatory system inflammation and the ability to lower high blood pressure.
In addition to being a cancer crusher and giving you a healthier heart, studies have found that dark chocolate can reduce your risk of arthritis, asthma and stroke. Dark chocolate also contains fat busting enzymes — these antioxidants have the ability to help block the breakdown of fat and carbohydrates, which can mean less fat gets absorbed from your digestive tract into your bloodstream. The bioactive compounds in dark chocolate can protect your skin against damage from the sun, improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin density and hydration.
Additionaly, dark chocolate can improve your overall mental state. Chocolate stimulates endorphin production which creates feelings of happiness and pleasure. Chocolate also increases serotonin levels in your brain. Serotonin is a natural anti-depressant which can aid a variety of psychological functions, including sleep and appetite.
Choosing the Right Chocolate
While you can't have a delicious chunk of chocolate sans sugar, it's important to note that dark chocolates contain less added sugar than both milk and white chocolates. Picking a chocolate with at least 70% cacao is best for health benefits. When choosing your perfect piece of chocolate, read the label carefully. It's important to choose a chocolate that uses cocoa butter rather than butterfat. Cocoa butter is a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil. The more a chocolate is processed — through things like fermentation, alkalizing, roasting, etc. — the more the health benefits are lost.
Perhaps the most important factor in chocolate consumption is moderation. In chocolate's case, there is such a thing as "too much of a good thing". There are a number of health benefits dark chocolate can provide, but that doesn't mean you should be eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Chocolate is still loaded with calories and is easy to overeat on. 1.5 to 3 ounce serving sizes a couple times a week is recommended.
Dark chocolate may taste more bitter milk or white chocolate, if you are new to dark chocolate. You can change your taste buds. Simply slowly increase the percent of cocoa in the chocolate you eat. As you increase from a lower percentage to a higher, you will notice you find dark chocolate less bitter and more tasty.
Make your Valentine's heart happy in more ways than one by saying "I love you" with dark chocolate this Valentine's Day!