The Health Benefits of Chocolate
I’ve been so excited to research and write about CHOCOLATE. I’ve just needed more of that precious commodity called “time!” So, finally, here I am . . . and while the chocolate of Valentine’s Day or Easter is but a distant memory, the delectable chocolate treats still fill store shelves. Indeed the appeal of chocolate cannot be contained to one month; its pleasure is timeless and “powers” are rich. I eat some form of chocolate most every day of my life. Let’s look at its worthiness in making my “Top 12” list of favorite foods.
To begin, I’d like to “take you” to a bumpy, dirt road in a very poor, rural farming community two hours outside of Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. My family and I were there last year with an organization near and dear to my heart called Plant with Purpose. While our friend Carlos diverted our attention to what looked like thousands of almonds basking in the sun on the side of the road, he asked, “Have you seen how chocolate is made?” Clearly, we hadn’t. Our driver stopped the van, and we got out to take a closer look at the cacao (pronounced “Ka-Kow”) beans in front of a family’s home. A gentleman came out to greet us, and our incredible tutorial on the making of chocolate began!
Being a lover of food – and of learning about it – I was fascinated! I won’t explain the very long, delicate process, but the kind man and Carlos did. Ultimately we have God to thank for creating the cacao tree, but we also owe rural farmers in tropical climates (and especially Western Africa) our gratitude for the countless hours of manual labor they give, so you and I can enjoy melt-in-your-mouth delight. (In SuperFoods HealthStyle, by Steven Pratt, M.D., I learned it takes approximately 400 cocao beans to make one pound of chocolate.)
But of course I’m not advocating we eat bunny-shaped Butterfingers or Cadbury eggs. (Darn!) I’m also not endorsing milk chocolate or white chocolate . . . the latter is not even chocolate! You may already know the darker the chocolate, the better in terms of health. As the chocolate gets “darker,” the percent of cocoa solids goes up, which means the amount of “polyphenol flavonoids”– the key to chocolate’s health benefits – does, too. In a nutshell, dark chocolate is teeming with antioxidants and seems to increase heart health by lowering blood pressure, increasing blood flow, and improving bad cholesterol (SuperFoods HealthStyle). Dr. Pratt suggests we look for chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa solids and limit our consumption to 100 calories per day. Obviously chocolate’s health benefits can be drastically outweighed by eating too much or the wrong kind.
Finally, I say chocolate is a staple in my daily diet because I enjoy a chocolate protein shake before and after every workout. (I explain this more in a prior post entitled “2012 Workout Tips for Gals & Guys… STARTING NOW!”) I also eat a chocolate peanut butter protein bar occasionally as a mid-morning or afternoon snack. Satisfying my desire for chocolate in healthy ways translates to not needing or wanting to indulge in unhealthy forms. I’d rather build muscle, not fat . . . wouldn’t you?!
There’s actually much more we could cover on the rich subject of chocolate. I encourage you to learn more yourself and, as always, if you have a question, please ask me! I’ll be glad to provide you the answer or do my best to find it. Happy, healthy eating!!
Originally posted on March 14, 2012.
CC Photo by Chocolate Reviews on Flickr.