Chocolates is a perfect gift for everyone during the holiday season. Chocolates and other candies are the #1 gift given during Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day can be particularly difficult if you are trying to shed a few pounds, or are health conscious.
Do you love chocolate, but worried about packing on the pounds?
Are you health conscious and worried that chocolate is going to ruin your body?
Do you have an extreme sweet tooth and love chocolate?
If you’re someone who loves chocolate but does not want to compromise on health, try going dark!
Dark chocolate is proven to be beneficial towards health and is loaded with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Dark chocolate is made from the seeds of the cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao) and is loaded with antioxidants (cancer fighting), including polyphenols, flavonoids, catechins.
History of Dark Chocolate
Cocoa has been around for centuries and can be dated back as far as 1600 BC. It was considered a “drink of gods”, hence the name Theobroma cacao. In Greek, the word theo means god, and broma means drink.
The cocoa tree seeds contain flavonoids but more importantly, it is exceptionally high in its levels of flavanols.
Flavanols (Flavan-3-ol) are phytonutrients, which is known as plant-based nutrients. Not many other foods come close to the amount of flavanols that are found in cocoa seeds.
Flavonoids can be further distinguished as flavonols, flavanols, flavones, isoflavones, flavanones, and anthocyanidins.
Flavanols are found in certain fruits, vegetables, teas, unprocessed grape juice, wine, and berries. Black teas and red wine in particular, are known to contain high levels of flavanols.
How Does Flavanols Work?
Flavanols release a chemical known as nitric oxide (NO). This chemical is a free radical (cancer fighting) that is essential for intercellular health.
Activated nitric oxide dilates blood vessels, making it easier for the blood to circulate throughout the body. NO is absolutely necessary in maintaining a healthy body.
By keeping the blood vessels open, it allows the blood to efficiently carry vital oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the body. Dilated blood vessels decrease stress in the body and in turn, lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke.
Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Other proven benefits of dark chocolate include: decreases bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol, protects again sun damage while smoothing the skin, boosts brain health, and provides essential vitamins and minerals.
Kuna Indian Population and Cocoa
The effects of cocoa were studied in the Kuna Indians, a population living on the coast of Panama. They consume incredible amounts of cocoa from their daily cooking.
Studies on this indigenous population have shown that they are one of the few cultures who show no increase in age-related blood pressure or kidney function decline. These effects were not seen in their city neighbors who do not eat as much flavanol containing foods.
Dark Chocolate is Beneficial for Athletes
Due to the nitric oxide effects, cocoa flavanols are popular amongst athletes and other people who workout.
The decreased overall stress allows muscles to function better, endure extended physical stress during exercising, and increase the rate at which the body takes to repair damaged muscle tissue. This decreases the amount of soreness felt in between workouts.
- Mix 1-2 tablespoons of raw cacao powder to your post-workout protein drink.
Dark Chocolate as an Anti-Depressant & Libido Stimulator
Dark chocolate with high contents of cocoa is nature’s anti-depressant. The flavanols increases mood by raising the level of the pleasure neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin, and phenylethylamine (PEA).
Phenylethylamine produces chemicals in the brain that is associated with falling in love. Cocoa also contains monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors. MAO inhibitors cause an increase in dopamine and serotonin release.
Pharmaceutical companies who are well aware of these effects use MOA inhibitors in their anti-depressant medications. The neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin lifts mood, relaxes the body, and improves body stimulation. This in turn increases a person’s libido and promotes elevated moods.
Dark Chocolate for Skin Health
Cocoa flavanol is considered beneficial for skin health as well. In particular, one 12-week study shows that a regular consumption of cocoa flavanols has positive effects on facial wrinkles and elasticity.
Another study shows that flavanols protects against sun damage by UV rays and improves blood flow to the skin. Flavanols slows the progression of aging.
Choose Dark Over Milk Chocolate
Milk chocolate was found to contain the lowest amount of flavanols, while cocoa powder and dark chocolate contain the highest amount. So skip the milk chocolates this year and try dark chocolates and pure cocoa powders.
Make sure your dark chocolates or cocoa powders contain at least 50-80% of cocoa to reap the numerous benefits of flavanols. Just remember that the more cocoa content a bar contains, the more nutritious it is.
Your significant other will be so touched that you thought of their health, as well as their palate.