image source: Harvard Health
A lot of us assume that dark chocolate is a “no-no” to be avoided. Fortunately, we were wrong. Happy dance! Dark chocolate offers tremendous health benefits and definitely has a place in our pantries. Sorry milk and white chocolate lovers; those varieties don’t offer any of the same benefits as their darker cousin.
Dark chocolate has rich flavor and a little goes a long way. I like to buy bars that can be broken into pre-cut squares so I get a small but oh-so-satisfying treat with each serving. While dark chocolate almost always has some sugar, the amount in a single 1-ounce serving is really small. There are some sugar-free options out there, too, if sugar is something you need to avoid altogether. I like to eat it mindfully, really savoring it.
Four reasons why you need to pick up some dark chocolate on your next grocery run:
Dark chocolate is made from the seed of the cocoa tree and ounce for ounce, is one of the single best sources of antioxidants on the planet. It’s high in flavonols which are plant compounds delivering significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Nutritionists love to eat it and advise their clients to do the same. The darker the chocolate, the more flavonols it contains.
An ounce of dark chocolate eaten four times a week may help lower blood pressure and improve blood vessel function by sending a signal telling your arteries to relax. Yup, dark chocolate can improve your health and lower the risk for heart disease. In one study it was found to lower LDL, the “bad cholesterol” and increase HDL, the “good” kind. In another study, cocoa was found to reduce risk of death from heart disease by 50% over a 15-year period. (Where was I when they were recruiting study participants?)
Dark chocolate is a superfood loaded with nutrients and benefits. Choose one with at least 70 – 85% cocoa for the healthiest options and you’ll be eating fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium. And it goes down a lot easier than those horse pills from the vitamin shop.
And not just because you’re eating chocolate which is awesome in itself. No, there’s more to it than that and it’s backed by science. Dark chocolate stimulates the production of endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that make us feel pleasure. It also contains serotonin which is known to improve mood. Dark chocolate helps regulate depression. It’s also great for brain health. Studies have proven dark chocolate’s positive impact on memory. Dark chocolate has also been found to be key to helping seniors reduce memory loss.
Try a spoonful of dark cocoa powder in a smoothie with a cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, chunks of frozen banana (when they start to turn brown, I break each banana into four and freeze them in a glass container), a handful of kale or spinach, a spoonful of almond butter, a little crushed ice and some cinnamon. If I’m making a meal out of it, I add a scoop of protein powder, too.
How do you like to savor your dark chocolate? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!