Is Chocolate Healthy?
As another Valentine’s Day comes and goes, every grocery store is stocked with large displays of chocolate hearts and roses on sale. This becomes tempting, and even those with New Year’s Resolutions to cut out desserts might find themselves caving at the sight of these seasonal delights. With chocolate everywhere, is there a way to indulge in a way that will actually benefit your health?
The Right Kind of Chocolate
Not all chocolates are created equal, and when comparing various candy bars or heart-shaped truffle collections, it is important to know which kind of chocolate comes with health benefits. When you’re browsing the aisles, there are three main kinds of chocolate that you might see: milk, white, and dark. Milk chocolate is the most common, and is usually used in making popular candies, like peanut butter cups, M&Ms, or any of the most famous candy bars from the Hershey and Mars brands. White chocolate is used for certain treats and most often seen in chocolate variety boxes or for cookies-and-cream themed candy. Dark chocolate is less common in the candy aisle but is more common around Valentine’s or in the baking section, with different percentages of cacao listed on their bars.
Of these three groups, dark chocolate has the most health benefits. Milk and white chocolate are more heavily processed and have significantly more sugar or cream added to them, which tends to negate a lot of the nutrients found in the cacao plant naturally. Dark chocolate, especially dark chocolate with a higher percentage of cacao, has much more to offer and can do quite a bit to promote good heart and blood health in your body.
The Benefits of Dark Chocolate
It is common to hear people say that a little bit of chocolate is good for the heart, but it is important to know how and why this is the case. The dessert that many people know and love comes from the cacao plant, which is a large tree-fruit which can be dried out and ground up to make coco powder and chocolate. Chocolate bars themselves are often made by combining ground cacao with coco butter—or the naturally occurring oils in a cacao plant—which makes a creamy chocolate. Sugar, milk, and possibly flavoring is then mixed in to create what we see in stores.
Since cacao fruit are very fiber-rich fruits that have a lot of antioxidants, raw cacao is incredibly healthy for the heart and blood. These antioxidants can not only improve blood flow and circulation in the heart and brain, but they can also help to lower bad cholesterol, otherwise known as oxidized LDL. Cacao also has a bit of natural caffeine in it, which can be healthy for the mind and body. These trace amounts of caffeine can help to stimulate brain activity and curb hunger cravings without the same risk of jitters or dependency that can come with high-caffeine substances, like coffee.
Eating cacao, though, is usually where the problem lies. Raw, pure cacao is incredibly bitter. Most people will find 100% cacao chocolate to be unappetizing, so even though these bars won’t have added sugars or oils in them, they’re really only used when they are being baked into something that is already sweetened. This is why dark chocolate is the healthier chocolate, since it has just enough flavoring mixed in to make it delicious and rich, but not enough to be an unhealthy sugar-bomb for your body.
Dark chocolate bars, those labeled as 70% cacao or higher, have more than 50% of the recommended daily intake of iron, magnesium, and other vital nutrients. This means that eating small portions of a dark chocolate bar can go a long way in helping your body retain the nutrients and minerals it needs for good blood flow.
Moderating Your Dark Chocolate
While eating dark chocolate can be good for you, that doesn’t mean it is a good idea to go eat a bar every day. Moderation is key, just like with most aspects of everyone’s diet, and making sure you can keep control over your “chocoholic” cravings is a good idea.
If you’re trying to watch what you eat in the new year, or are weening yourself off of more sugary desserts, then start with just one or two squares of a dark chocolate bar after dinner. If you’re new to the dark chocolate game, then it might be easier to satisfy your cravings if you eat 70% cacao bars. Then, as you get more accustomed to the flavor differences, you can start to go higher, and maybe even enjoy an 85% bar regularly.
Making small amounts of dark chocolate your go-to dessert can be good. Not only will the antioxidants and nutrients in the cacao give your body a healthy boost, but the lower sugar quantities will help you to avoid eating too much dessert at once and help to keep away the cravings for ultra-sweet treats.
This chocolatey time of year, Concho Valley ER wants to encourage everyone to explore the world of dark chocolate and see how this dessert might help keep your heart in good health. Our facility is open 24/7, even on holidays like Valentine’s Day, to offer our patients only the very best in emergency healthcare.
Nutex Health, Inc. supports you and your family’s health. Come visit Concho Valley ER or any one of our concierge-level freestanding facilities for the emergency care you deserve, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.