Did you know that chocolate contains more antioxidants than any other food, blowing blueberries, green tea and red wine out of the water?! The antioxidant compounds found in chocolate decrease platelet aggregation, making your blood less sticky.. like Aspirin, only weaker.
Chocolate’s antioxidants also decrease LDL (“bad”) cholesterol oxidation and this is really important because cholesterol isn’t dangerous until it becomes oxidized. Chocolate also enhances nitric oxide production which boosts the ability of your blood vessels to dilate. As Martha Stewart would say, that’s a very good thing!
Chocolate contains a whopping dose of my favourite mineral, magnesium, which is super important in the treatment and management of a number of health concerns including premenstrual syndrome, dysmenorrhea, restless legs syndrome, hypertension, anxiety, depression and fibromyalgia.
Whether you’re not sleeping due to twitchy achy restless legs or loosing your mind on a monthly basis due to hormonal woes, correcting a magnesium deficiency can literally change a person’s life. There are all kinds of supplements and some are better than others. Chocolate is an excellent food source if you’re eating the right stuff.
Eat this stuff
If you love chocolate and want to enjoy it along with the health benefits of this amazing superfood, these are my two favourite whole food ingredients to keep on hand for chocolate cravings. They are healthy enough to be enjoyed every single day!
Cacao powder (on the left in photo). This is not cocoa! Cocoa is the highly processed chocolate powder we are most familiar with. It has been heated and processed and by the time it reaches your mouth it’s flavourful if you’re lucky but otherwise not very useful. Good quality cacao is raw (not heated) which means it retains more of the superfood properties found in actual chocolate (think antioxidants).
Cacao nibs (on the right in photo). These are fragments of the chocolate bean. They are lovely sprinkled on top of smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, or added to trail mix. If you like dark chocolate you’ll appreciate their flavour. If you’re used to sweet milk chocolate you may want to balance them with some natural sweetener like dates, maple syrup or local honey.
What not to eat
Beware of chocolate that contains very little chocolate. If the main ingredients in your chocolate are sugar and milk, you’re not going to enjoy any health benefits but rather a blood sugar rollercoaster ride which is crappy for your heart and mind. Cacao content above 75% is key. Anything below that is candy*.
*Candy is a food product that is harmful to your health in a dose dependent manner. It is generally extremely high in sugar and funky frankengredients you cannot pronounce. Unless you have diabetes, it can be enjoyed safely in very small amounts every once in a while. Like when you go to the movie theatre. For best results, swap candy for real food to avoid long term complications.