Love chocolate? If so, you’re in luck. Chocolate is finally getting the reputation it deserves as a superfood. Cocoa is made from cacao, which is the dried seed of a South American Evergreen tree. Cocoa in its raw form is filled with iron, fiber, calcium, zinc, potassium, and antioxidants.
Raw cocoa is loaded with antioxidant flavonoids that improve heart health by protecting it against toxins and by improving circulation and regulating heartbeat. According to Harvard researchers, consuming cocoa is associated with decreased blood pressure, improved blood vessel health, and improved cholesterol levels. Eric L. Ding, PhD, of Harvard Medical School says that cocoa’s health benefits are due to the polyphenolic flavonoids found in cocoa, which have the potential to prevent heart disease.
Other nutrients found in cocoa are manganese, magnesium, and sulfur. Manganese helps oxygenize blood, magnesium balances brain chemistry, and sulfur builds strong nails and hair, as well as supports healthy skin.
Above all, cocoa makes you feel good. Cocoa promotes the release of neurotransmitters, which release feel-good hormones. Consuming raw cocoa will raise your levels of serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant that can help reduce PMS symptoms. It also sparks the release of endorphins, which create an enjoyable feeling.
Now, don’t run out and buy just any chocolate bar – not all chocolate is created equally. White chocolate is the least nutritious. White chocolate doesn’t contain any cocoa and is made from cocoa butter from which the cocoa solids have been removed. It is loaded with milk and sugar, and contains no nutritional value. Milk chocolate won’t do you much good – it contains added milk and sugar, making it fattening. To reap the most health benefits from cocoa choose a dark chocolate of 70% cocoa or higher. The higher the percentage, the more cocoa and the fewer added ingredients.
Raw cocoa is best. Raw cocoa comes in many forms including whole beans, nibs, and powder. Nibs are delicious in cookie recipes and trail mix. Try making hot cocoa with real raw cocoa powder. So go on, indulge in a piece of dark chocolate or some raw cocoa nibs and enjoy!
By Emily Borgeest