If you’re anything like me, you love chocolate. Chocolate cake, peanut butter brownies, hot chocolate with marshmallows…I love it all. Can you believe that the average American consumes roughly 12 pounds of chocolate each year?! And, throughout the world, over $75 billion is spent each year on chocolate…which is precisely why I want to make sure you’re spending your money in the right place.
Chocolate is known as the “food of the gods.”
This tasty treat has a 4,000-year history that dates back to the ancient Mesoamericans. These people were first to cultivate the cacao plants found in the tropical rainforests of Central America. In the 1500s, Spanish conquistadors who sought gold and silver in Mexico returned instead with chocolate. Spain managed to keep chocolate a secret for nearly 100 years, but when the daughter of a Spanish king was married to King Louis XIII of France, she brought her love of chocolate with her. The popularity of chocolate quickly spread across Europe, and in 1847, British chocolate company J.S. Fry & Sons created the very first chocolate bar .
All chocolate is not created equal.
The potential health benefits of processed and highly sweetened chocolate are essentially nonexistent. Due to the high cocoa content, dark chocolate tends to have a more bitter flavor. But don’t let the bitterness turn you away, because in making milk chocolate, the milk actually binds itself to the flavonoids in cocoa, reducing any health benefits from the cocoa itself. When looking for a sweet snack, a square of dark chocolate should satisfy your sweet tooth while promoting your health at the same time!
Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants with free radical fighting abilities. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals (toxic compounds created by cellular processes in the body) protecting the body from their potential damage. In terms of antioxidant content, dark chocolate can be considered a superfood similar to that of açaí, cranberries and blueberries. The higher the cacao in the chocolate, the more antioxidants you’ll find!
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With it’s rich supply of flavonoids, dark chocolate may also help you ward off cancer. Although studies are still emerging, evidence suggests that dark chocolate can help reduce the risk of lung, prostate, and skin cancer . Flavanols are the main type of flavonoids found in dark chocolate. According to the Cleveland Clinic, consumption of flavanols lowers blood pressure and improve circulation through the heart. The flavanols in dark chocolate also reduce the risk of blood clots that lead to stroke . Dark chocolate even helps to stabilize blood sugars in diabetics with high blood pressure. The higher the cocoa content, the lower the sugar .
The cocoa found in dark chocolate also contains polyphenols, micronutrients packed with antioxidants that help to reduce cholesterol. Studies show that routine consumption of dark chocolate results in a decrease in the “bad” LDL cholesterol and an increase in the “good” HDL cholesterol .
Dark chocolate can also be considered a brain-booster, improving focus and memory. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition demonstrated dark chocolate’s ability to improve cognitive ability, especially in the elderly. It concluded that intake of flavonoid-rich foods like dark chocolate is associated with improved cognitive abilities across the board .
After nearly 4000 years, it is clear that this sweet treat isn’t going anywhere! At least now you have an excuse to steal an extra square…you know I will!
Need a dark chocolate fix? Try one of these delicious recipes.
Dark Chocolate Coconut Oil Fudge from Wholefully.
Healthy Dark Chocolate Coconut Bites from The Harvest Kitchen.
Dark Chocolate Superfood Bites from The Beachbody Blog.