We can all agree that health matters. When we are in good health and good shape, it’s easy to take it for granted. And then when disease, injury or chronic pain strikes, we realize how important it is to invest in health.
Investing in health can feel like a tall order at times, especially if that means breaking old habits and making improvements in exercise, sleep patterns, and diet.
But it doesn’t have to be excruciating! In fact, getting healthy can be fun and full of great treats and rewards. And there are few things more rewarding than seeing improvements in health.
If making changes to your diet feels like a punishment, know that it doesn’t have to be that way. There are actually some things that are both delicious and good for you. Dark chocolate is one of those things.
It’s true — dark chocolate has a number of health benefits so that it can be added to your daily diet. Of course, the thing to remember is that portion sizes matter, and too much dark chocolate (well, too much of anything) will add more sugar and fat than is good. But, when taken in moderation, the rumours are true, dark chocolate is healthy!
Chocolate has been around for thousands of years, the oldest recorded chocolate concoctions were used in ceremonies thousands of years ago in Mexico and Central America. The flavour profile was a little different than what we’re used to today, and it was consumed in liquid form.
Chocolate has gone through a lot of changes over the years and has spread around the globe. It is a multi-billion dollar industry, and it is enjoyed in many, many forms by people of all walks of life.
Dark chocolate is different than its sweeter, lighter cousin, milk chocolate. The dark variety is made with cocoa butter, cocoa solids and sugar. It is simple, bitter, and very delicious.
If you are new to the dark chocolate world, you’ve probably noticed that the row of dark chocolate offerings at the store shows different percentages. That’s because the higher the proportion of cocoa solids, the higher the percentage you will see on the packaging — 70% dark chocolate, for example — and the more bitter it will be.
Recently, dark chocolate has taken on a life of its own, with people firmly in the high-quality, dark chocolate camp. We approve of this trend!
Dark Chocolate and Your Health
Dark chocolate is one of those things that pops up in the news every so often, much like red wine.
Headlines read: “Studies show that dark chocolate is good for your health!” and everyone goes and happily stocks up on the delicious treat.
And it’s true, studies have shown that small amounts of daily dark chocolate intake have great benefits for a person’s health. Here’s how.
Dark chocolate is rich in plant chemicals called contains flavonols, which have a number of health benefits. Flavanols have been shown to support the production of nitric oxide in the inner cell lining of blood vessels. This helps lower blood pressure because the blood vessels relax and blood flow improves.
Flavonols also act as an antioxidant, which protects the body against pollutants and chemicals that enter the system through the air we breathe and the food we eat.
They also keep the heart healthy by helping prevent heart disease. To do this, flavonoids have been found to:
- Protect the heart
- Help control and lower cholesterol
- Balance hormones in the body
Dark chocolate has shown up in some research, linking dark chocolate consumption to reduced risks of diabetes, stroke, and heart attack, however, more research is needed to make claims with certainty.
Dark Chocolate and Mental Health
The benefits of consuming small amounts of dark chocolate don’t stop there. The delicious treat is also known to have benefits that can lead to improved mental health as well. Not only does it just feel good to eat dark chocolate, but there are also actual chemicals going on in the brain that show a link between chocolate and an improved mood.
That’s because dark chocolate boosts the production of feel-good chemicals called endorphins, which bind with receptors in the brain that lead to feelings of euphoria, like the kind joggers get from “runner’s high.”
Dark chocolate can also diminish the negative effects of stress. Chocolate is a source of an amino acid called tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin which helps create happiness and a positive mood. Finally, dark chocolate is the main food source of anandamide, a naturally occurring compound called the “bliss molecule.”
How to Choose Dark Chocolate?
It’s a simple fact that some chocolate is better than others. How can you tell?
The best dark chocolate always has chocolate liquor or cocoa listed as the first ingredient. From there, here are some things to watch out for (and what to avoid) when you’re deciding what to buy:
- High in cocoa: 70% or higher cocoa percentage.
- No extra ingredients (especially that you can’t pronounce): Avoid dark chocolate that contains trans fat, milk, artificial flavourings, high amounts of sugar and other unnecessary ingredients.
- No alkali processing: Alkali processing is also known as Dutching. Avoid chocolate processed this way.
- Fair-trade and organic: This type of dark chocolate is more likely to be high-quality, ethically sourced and pesticide-free.
Treating yourself to high-quality chocolate is a great way to enjoy life and boost your health. There aren’t that many foods out there that feel like a treat and are good for you at the same time.
Since dark chocolate has benefits for your body and mind, why not keep some good quality dark chocolate bars on hand (maybe in the back of the cupboard so you’re not tempted to overindulge)?
Any time you need a little pick me up, you know you’ll have something that’s both delicious and good for you. So go ahead, get healthy, and enjoy some dark chocolate!