Chocolate is scientifically proven to be good for the heart when eaten as part of a balanced diet. This is because it is rich in flavanols (specifically epicatechin) which help to keep blood vessels healthy, lower blood pressure and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. A study published in the British Medical Journal reported that people who ate the highest level of chocolate had the lowest risk of cardiometabolic disorders.
Just the mention of ‘chocolate’ is enough to start up the salivary glands. Rich, decadent and comforting. It is a powerful food and something that can most definitely help to recharge the batteries. Cacao is naturally high in vitamins and minerals which are essential for a healthy diet, along with antioxidants and phytochemicals. In fact, there are around 800 chemical compounds in cacao including a marijuana like substance called anandamide, along with the stimulants caffeine and theobromine. Combined with a host of mood boosting compounds, including tryptophan and phenylethylamine, no wonder we are hooked to the stuff.
If you love chocolate AND want to reap the rewards of its health benefits, choose minimally processed bars with a high cocoa percentage (sometimes described as non fat cocoa solids). Make It Healthy Raw Chocolate is a perfect example of carefully crafted chocolate made from Peruvian cacao beans that are unroasted. Minimal processing means flavanols are less likely to be destroyed during chocolate making.
What about the sugar content?
Chocolate tastes so good because of its perfect mixture of sweetness and fat. However, eating too much sugar long term can lead to obesity and cause disease. Choosing dark chocolate with a high cocoa percentage and low sugar content helps to minimise sugar spikes. Make It Healthy Raw Chocolate is sweetened with coconut sugar which contains inulin. Inulin may help to slow down glucose absorption and promotes the production of beneficial gut bacteria.
What about the high fat and calorie content of chocolate?
Interestingly, a small study of 21 people found that eating a bar (46g) of dark chocolate every day for two weeks did not increase cholesterol, body weight or BMI. However, to gain the heart benefits, a 10g dose (about 2 squares) of dark chocolate is probably all that you need. If you’re looking for a really low fat alternative, the Make It Healthy Energy Truffles are a fat free delicious blend of organic ingredients; oats, dates and raw cacao powder combined with crunchy cacao nibs. Nothing artificial and no refined sugar. They are available in four different flavours and sold at the monthly Make It Healthy stall at Rode Hall Farmers Market.
Remember that all treats are to be consumed in moderation and this is very much part of the Make It Healthy philosophy. Have a little of what you fancy and make it healthy!