Here’s the thing, i’m not one of those girls whom reaches for milk chocolate when feeling a little or a lot worse for wear or emotionally low. It just doesn’t do it for me! If anything it actually makes me feel a little nauseous and definitely not satisfied. I’m definitely drawn to the ‘dark side’ and i go by the preference that a square or 2 of dark chocolate is good for me.
The Latin name for cocoa—Theobroma—literally means, “food of the gods” and is considered one of the original “superfoods” with its origins dating date to the Amazon and other regions in South America.
Cacao now has scientific research to back up its health benefits. Here are the facts.
- Dark chocolate (70-85%) is nutritious containing a high quality cacao, not to be mistaken for the processed commercial version cocoa. 100gm of 70-85% chocolate contains 11gm of fibre, 67%/ 7.3mg of the RDA for iron (highest plant source known to man), 58% of the RDA for magnesium, 89% of the RDA for copper & 98% of the RDA for manganese. It also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.
- Its full of antioxidants. Cacao is choc full of polyphenols, flavanols and catechins. One study showing that it has more antioxidant activity than fruits such as blueberries and acai berries.
- Cacao improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure. Bioactive compounds in cacao can improve blood flow in the arteries and cause a small decrease in blood pressure.
- Cacao improves good cholesterol (HDL) and guards against oxidation. It can lower oxidative damage and improves insulin sensitivity.
- Cacao helps lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies have concluded a drastic reduction in heart disease risk for individuals whom eat the best quality dark chocolate.
- Cacao may protect your skin against the sun. Studies show that flavanols found in cacao can improve blood flow to the skin and protect skin against sun induced damage.
- Dark chocolate may improve brain function. A study which involved healthy volunteers showed that following 5 days of eating high flavanol cacao – improvements to blood flow to the brain occurred.Research also shows that it may also significantly improve cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment and improve verbal fluency as well as risk factors for the disease.
- Its full of Magnesium. Raw cacao is one of the highest plant based sources of one of my favourite minerals. Magnesium is quiet deficient in our soil and very often stripped from our food via too much processing. Magnesium is essential for muscular relaxation of the skeletal system, blood vessels and GUT and nourishes the nervous system therefore considered the “anti-stress” mineral. Also think of the benefits it could have with menstual pain ladies!
- Cacao has more calcium than cow’s milk. 160mg per 100gm v’s 125mg per 100ml of milk.
- Raw cacao is a natural mood elevator because its full of serotonin, dopamine, anandamide and phenylethylamine. These neurotransmitters are associated with feelings of well-being, happiness and can even help with depression.
Its essential not to confuse cacao with cocoa. Commercial cocoa has been chemically processed and roasted which destroys a large amount of antioxidants and flavanols (these help keep us healthy). In fact 60-90% of the original antioxidants are destroyed through “dutch” processing which was developed to decrease the bitterness and colour of cacao.
I love to add a tablespoon or two to my smoothie, protein/bliss balls, cookies, muffins and only use raw cacao powder to make my hot chocolate drinks in the cooler months making it not only delicious but nutritious.