“No other factory mixes its chocolate by waterfall. But it’s the only way if you want it…just right” Willie Wonka
Okay all you chocolate lovers out there – did you know that this dark mouthful of heavenly goodness is extremely beneficial to your health? Of course, I am not talking about your typical Hershey bar or a handful of M&M’s, but rather the dark, rich chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa. This gift of nature can do wonders for you.
Cocoa is a super anti-oxidant food that protects you against damage from the free radicals that may be in your system, which are unstable atoms or molecules that are caused by environmental stresses. They naturally want to be stable, so they will rip electrons out of your cells leading to cell damage. Anti-oxidants take care of the free radicals before they damage your system. Studies show that free radical damage causes not only premature aging, but may also be linked to a number of degenerative diseases such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. Although there are many foods that have anti-oxidative properties, cocoa is one of the strongest available.
But wait! There’s more!
Cocoa and dark chocolate also provide you with these benefits:
- Protection from heart attacks and stroke by lowering your blood pressure, reducing arterial congestion, and improving circulation by dilating your blood vessels. Cocoa is rich in magnesium necessary for vascular health, and most people are magnesium deficient.
- A source of healthy fats. Cocoa is rich in the same fatty acids found in olive oil (Mediterranean diet?) that has been shown to prevent heart disease.
- Enhances glucose metabolism. Dark chocolate candy that is at least 70% cocoa inhibits the sugar issues that lead to diabetes and obesity.
- A natural anti-depressant. Your mood can improve by consuming dark chocolate since it contains serotonin and increases endorphin production – the ‘feel-good’ hormones of the nerve system.
- May prevent colon cancer and intestinal pathologies. A study published recently in the Journal of Molecular Nutrition and Food Research supports this idea by reducing the oxidative stress caused by the consumption of toxins in our foods.
Keep in mind that none of this applies to milk chocolate. As much as we love this candy, once the milk and all that sugar is added – or worse yet High Fructose Corn Syrup – the health benefits of the cocoa are lost making it just another junk food. Chocolate that is listed as “bittersweet” or at least 70% cocoa is the best to buy. You can buy bags of bittersweet morsels to add to your yogurt, your coffee, throw into a smoothie, or just eat straight out of the bag. One thing I like to do is take a teaspoon of pure cocoa, mix it with water, and add a couple drops of stevia for a refreshing chocolaty drink. You have to stir hard though because cocoa doesn’t dissolve in water very well.
However you decide to use it, adding cocoa to your diet can provide health benefits beyond measure.