Posted on 02/13/2015 at 12:00 AM by Embria Health Sciences
By Dr. Lisa Metzgar, PhD:
Valentine’s Day is the season for love and chocolate. Who doesn’t like getting a big red heart- shaped box of chocolates as a token of your loved one’s affection? Good news…there are health benefits to eating chocolate! However, not every chocolate in that box packs the same punch of health benefits. Make sure this Valentine’s Day you choose the healthier chocolate option to give to your loved ones.
The healthiest choice for your gift of love is dark chocolate. Milk chocolate and white chocolate tend to contain more sugar and don’t have all the health-promoting benefits that a rich, dark chocolate contains. A simple guide is to choose chocolate with at least 65% cacao content. If the cacao content isn’t listed on the package, just remember the darker the chocolate the higher the cacao content.
There are many great benefits from this wonder tree called the Cacao. Key to chocolate production is the cacao bean, which actually doesn’t contain any sugar or dairy naturally. Cacao beans do contain compounds called flavonoids that act as antioxidants that work to protect the body from the aging effects of free radicals. Cocoa is known to have eight times more antioxidants than strawberries. Who knew that strawberries dipped in melted dark chocolate were some kind of antioxidant-packed super food?
Yes, there is a lot of fat in dark chocolate. The good news is about 2/3 of the fat in dark chocolate is healthy fat. There are 3 types of fat in dark chocolate. Oleic acid is a healthy monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFU) that is also found in olive oil. Oleic acid helps lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and raise HDL (good cholesterol). Stearic acid is a saturated fat but has a neutral effect on cholesterol. Palmitic acid is present as well which is found in palm oils and can increase cholesterol if over indulging but in small amounts can have anti-atherosclerotic and mild antioxidant properties in animal studies. That being said…as with any good thing you must eat in moderation. The high fat content makes it a high calorie food. There are about 200 calories in a 3 ½ oz. serving. Make sure you take this into account when totaling you daily calorie needs. When eating your 3 ½ oz. serving every day, eat it slowly to savor the rich textures and tastes.
The feelings of love you get when you eat chocolate isn't just about Valentine's Day. Chocolate stimulates the release of hormones like endorphins, which brings feelings of pleasure, and brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) like serotonin, which acts as an antidepressant and helps manage stress.
Cacao also contains several minerals that are beneficial to the body. Magnesium helps to alkalize the body, induce restful sleep, eliminate muscle cramping, helps improve elimination, and strengthen bones. Chromium helps balance blood sugars, manganese and iron help the blood, and zinc improves immunity.
Chocolate also contains theobromine and caffeine, which are stimulants. So it isn't just in your head...you really do get good feelings of being in love from eating chocolate! Theobromine lasts much longer in the body, which is the key reason to keep chocolate away from animals.
Dark chocolate is the perfect complement to EpiCor, which has been clinically shown to increase antioxidants power and help strengthen your immune system.
Here are a few fun ideas to incorporate healthy versions of dark chocolate into your Valentine’s Day treats.
Healthy Dark Chocolate Fudge
- 1 cup of melted organic extra virgin coconut oil
- 1 cup raw cacao powder
- ¼ cup raw honey or pure maple syrup
- Chopped nuts (optional)
Mix ingredients and put in refrigerator to harden.
Dark Chocolate dipped strawberries
Make the above recipe and dunk fresh strawberries in the liquid mix before putting in the refrigerator to harden.
Candied Cacao Nibs
Cacao nibs are roasted bits of the cacao seed that are the basis of chocolate. They have a chocolaty taste but are not naturally sweet and not usually eaten by themselves. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper, lightly greased.
- 5 oz cacao nibs
- ½ cup organic brown sugar
- 2 tbls agave nectar or pure maple syrup
- ¼ cup softened butter
Combine the nibs, brown sugar, and agave or maple syrup in a saucepan and heat over medium heat stirring constantly with wooden spoon. The sugar and nibs will start to stick together and form clumps. There might be a little smoke given off as the sugar caramelizes. Keep stirring until sugar liquefies. Take off heat and immediately add the butter, stirring well. Spread the mixture on the parchment covered cookie sheet and wait to harden. You can then break it apart into bite sized treats. Enjoy!
So, enjoy your dark chocolate this Valentine's Day and every day. Something that is good for you and decadent!