Junk food is a slow killer. It’s making you diabetic, raising your blood pressure, and threatens to shut down your heart before the age of 50. No one really argues with how important diet is to long-term health.After all you are what you eat. The question is, then: What is junk food really?
Think about 5 foods you consider junk.
Was coco one of your choices?
Should it be?
More and more we are learning that it’s less the what of the food we eat, but the how in the way it’s prepared. A hamburger from McDonald’s is bad, but what about a homemade grass-fed burger with gluten-free bread, and organic cheese? French fries are the worst, right? How about some sweet potato strips baked to a crunchy crisp in the oven?
Maybe it’s time to have another look at chocolate. Super-foods don’t just come from your supermarket’s produce aisle. In fact those dark chocolate candy bars next to the gummy bears now qualify. Study after study proves that dark chocolate—sweet, rich, and delicious—is good for more than curing a broken heart </3. The secret behind its powerful punch is cacao, also the source of the sweet’s distinct taste. Packed with healthy chemicals this little bean offers various physical health benefits.
I’d like to discuss the type of chocolate that one should look for when shopping, the chemical compounds of dark chocolate and what makes it so beneficial to your physical health, and finally, some things to remember in order to heighten your chocolate eating experience.
I’ll begin by explaining to you the ideal type of chocolate to look for when shopping.
Cacao in its natural raw state is somewhat bitter, chalky but when you add milk, sugar, and butter—you are left with something that is good for your taste buds but not always so good for your health. Besides adding calories, these ingredients can dilute the benefits of cacao. So remember to snack smart: When shopping for the chocolate with the most health benefits stick to one that contains at least 70% cacao as this percentage stands for the amount of cocoa solids present. As long as the content is about that high, says Mary Engler, Ph.D., a professor of physiological nursing at the University of California at San Francisco, you can reap the benefits from eating small amounts. Also, a true dark chocolate will never have sugar listed first in the ingredients. It should always be below the cocoa ingredients. Lastly, some phrases that should be present on your chocolate bar wrapper are: fair trade, 70% cocoa, not processed with alkali and 100% organic (Note that the word “organic” does not equal 100% organic)
Now that you are all armed with the knowledge of what to look for when shopping for your decadent chocolate treat, I will discuss the composition of dark chocolate and what makes it so beneficial to your physical health.
Now I just mentioned that one of the phrases that could appear on your dark chocolate candy bar are “not processed with alkali” but what exactly does this mean? If your chocolate says “processed with alkali” on the nutrition label, then it’s going to have a whole lot less flavonoids.
Flavonoids: a large group of plant-based antioxidants and the type of flavonoids found especially in chocolate are called flavanols.
You won’t find flavonoid content on nutrition labels, but as I mentioned earlier the label should indicate the percentage of cocoa solids. Since flavonoids are found only in the solids, you can use the percentage as a general guide for choosing products with the most flavonoids.
Fun Fact: Unsweetened natural cocoa powder has 88 to 96 percent cocoa solids, dark chocolate contains 45 to 80 percent cocoa solids and milk chocolate has only 5 to 7 percent.
Now that you know you need flavanols in your chocolate, the reason they are an essential part of our diets is due to the fact in that studies have shown that they have anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-cancer, and antidiarrheal properties. Flavanols are also known to help with high blood pressure, blood flow to the brain and heart, and in breaking up blood clots.
An additional chemical that can be found in dark chocolate is theobromine and the sweet perk of this element is that it is not only responsible for the chocolates feel-good effects but also has been proven to be a cough queller. And since we are currently in cold and flu season, I thought it would be a good idea to bring this particular health benefit up. A 2004 study published by Imperial College London concluded that dark chocolate has an antitussive (cough- reducing) effect superior to codeine, thanks to the theobromine it contains. Maria Belvisi, a professor of respiratory pharmacology at the National Heart and Lung Institute in London, says, “It had none of the negative side effects.” Codeine makes most people feel sleepy and dull—and doesn’t taste anything like fine chocolate.
As you have heard, dark chocolate is composed of chemical compounds which benefit your physical health. Now let’s look at some things to remember in order to heighten your chocolate eating experience.
- Eat it after a meal when you are full and less likely to overindulge.
- Buy small-sized bars, not family-sized slabs.
- Eat the dark chocolate with fresh fruit to add to the health of your sweet treat by making a chocolate fondue
- Let chocolate rest in your mouth for long enough to melt and coat your taste buds and the roof of your mouth to experience the full range of flavors and textures.
- Learn to savor the lingering memory of each bite before immediately devouring the next.
So as you can easily see, an increase of dark chocolate in your daily diet can benefit your physical health.
I’m going to leave you with a short quote from Marcia Carrington, an author and food connoisseur, “A little chocolate a day keeps the doctor at bay.”
PS. Below is a video where a music artist explains his love of a different kind of “coco”. lol
For mature audiences only.