I’m sure you have heard before that chocolate is good for you, but you might not truly understand the benefits yourself! Often it is depicted that only dark chocolate is good for you, but this isn’t necessarily true! Milk chocolate can have just as many benefits as dark chocolate, and when ate in moderation is part of a wholesome and healthy diet!
Cocoa is the basis for both of these types of chocolate, and the health benefits of cocoa are impressive in many unique ways!
So- sit back, drink some tea, get yourself some nice Belgian chocolate, and read all of the benefits below!
Chocolate is good for your heart, that is the basis of this entire article!
Eating about 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of chocolate daily has been linked with lower risks of stroke, and heart disease. This was reported in 2015 by scientists in the Journal Heart.
That amount of chocolate is the equivalent of two Hershey bars, 22 Hershey’s Kisses, or two bags of M&M’s.
The researchers concluded in their paper that there does not appear to be any evidence to suggest that chocolate should be avoided by those who are concerned about cardiovascular risk.
A new study in to the benefits of milk chocolate, based on a meta-analysis of eight previously published studies which involved about 158,000 people; determined that people who regularly ate chocolate had up to an 11 percent lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and a 23 percent lower risk of having a stroke when compared with non-chocolate eaters.
For those of you who don’t want to eat chocolate bars consistently (which is probably none of you), cocoa powder is available for purchase online! Cocoa powder will provide you with pretty much all of the benefits you are looking for, and can easily be added to smoothies or oatmeal in the morning!
You enjoy the health benefits of cocoa when you eat both dark chocolates, and milk chocolate!
Components of Chocolate
Both dark chocolate and milk chocolate contain cocoa, and the higher the concentration of cocoa in the chocolate, the higher the amount of flavonoids present in the chocolate.
The difference between dark chocolate and milk chocolate is that while the dark chocolate contains a small amount of vanilla, and sugar along with cocoa liquor, cocoa powder and cocoa butter; milk chocolate also contains these ingredients with milk and more sugar.
Regardless of which chocolate you prefer to buy for yourself, my suggestion is always that you purchase natural and organic products! M&M’s may taste great, but they are filled with artificial ingredients that cancel out all the amazing health benefits of chocolate!
One of the advantages of milk chocolate is that it contains more calcium than dark chocolate, and this gives you the opportunity to enjoy the health benefits of cocoa, and have the additional benefit of calcium.
The cocoa which is used to make both dark chocolate and milk chocolate are fermented seeds of the cacao tree, which has the Latin name Theobroma cacao (which also means “Food of the Gods”).
Cocoa is native to the Amazon region, and just as the meaning suggests, it was historically considered an important crop in Central and South America.
Cocoa beans were so prized that the native tribes used them as a form of currency!
The average cocoa tree stands about 12-25 feet tall, and grows naturally in tropical climates. Presently, cocoa is produced across the world and about 40 percent of the harvesting is done in Cote d’Ivoire; while other countries such as Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, and Brazil contribute greatly to the overall production.
Apart from its well-established role in the manufacturing of chocolate, cocoa has several medicinal and healing benefits that have been utilized since the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations.
Cocoa itself is one of the most powerful and antioxidant filled substances on this planet, and should be utilized for its medicinal benefits far more than it normally is!
Nutritional Value of Cocoa
Cocoa is very rich in minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Cocoa is also a great source of potassium, zinc, and selenium; while providing your body with protein, dietary fiber, and carbohydrates.
A significant benefit of cocoa is that its cholesterol content is almost negligible. It contains cocoa butter, (a mixture of monounsaturated fats such as oleic acid) and saturated fats (namely palmitic acid and stearic acid).
The fat content of cocoa itself is extremely healthy for humans, and we would be wise to consume this magical food more often!
See Also: Complex Carbs for Bodybuilding
The Health Benefits of Cocoa and Chocolate
So, what are the health benefits of cocoa?
Cocoa found in both dark chocolate and milk chocolate offers anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, antioxidant qualities, and anti-allergenic qualities. It has also demonstrated to possess positive effects by imparting the numerous benefits explained below.
My favorite way to add raw cocoa powder to my diet is by mixing it in to smoothies and oatmeal! Cocoa is a highly important part of my morning meal, as it helps me load my body with natural energy to run off during the day!
Cocoa’s Antioxidant Capacity
It is evident through comparative research that cocoa exhibits higher antioxidant activity than red wine, black tea, and green tea! Antioxidants help to neutralize the oxygen-based free radicals that are found in your body, and are necessary to slow the body’s natural aging process.
Cocoa is also abundant in phenolic phytochemicals, and has a high number of flavonoids too.
Read More: Foods High in Antioxidants
Chocolate and Weight Loss
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen discovered that dark chocolate is far more filling, and this offers you with more of a feeling of satiety. The implication of this is that dark chocolate can lessen your cravings for fatty, sweet, and salty foods. Sticking to chocolate can help you maintain your diet plan generally.
Natural dark chocolate or milk chocolate is one of the best snacks that you can eat during your day.
Especially if you avoid eating chocolate that is filled with artificial substances, snacking on chocolate is an excellent way to satiate your sweet tooth, and help you burn fat from your body!
Relief from Cough
Chocolate has also been found to quiet coughs almost as well as codeine, because it contains theobromine. Theobromine is the chemical which is responsible for chocolate’s feel-good effect, and may be able to suppress activity in a part of the brain known as the vagus nerve.
A professor of respiratory pharmacology at the National Heart and Lung Institute in London, Maria Belvisi says “they had none of the negative side effects,” of codeine.
This makes chocolate a better choice than codeine, for many reasons.
Codeine makes most people dull and sleepy, and does not taste nearly as fine as chocolate.
I always do my best to treat any ailments holistically, using natural substances as much as possible to improve my health overall!
Helps the Treatment of Diabetes
The consumption of cocoa has shown to be effective in improving insulin resistance, and glucose metabolism. This also aids in regulating the sugar levels in the body.
The proanthocyanidins that is derived from cocoa also helps in inhibiting cataract formation, which is occasionally induced by diabetes.
Also, the free radical scavenging activity of cocoa has shown therapeutic effects in the treatment and prevention of certain cellular injury!
Chocolate is a Great Mood Enhancer
UC San Diego researchers recently confirmed that when times get tough, people tend to eat more chocolate than they might have before.
Swiss scientists discovered that when very anxious people ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate daily for two weeks, there was a significant reduction in their stress level hormones. Also, the metabolic effects of stress were partially mitigated!
The consumption of cocoa has shown antidepressant-like effects on certain physiological processes.
Results from studies indicate that cocoa flavonols help to enhance mood, and promote improved cognitive activities during persistent mental exertion and combat depression.
This is most likely because the availability of the neurochemical phenylethylamine helps in enhancing the feelings of contentment, and promotes aphrodisiac effects.
Treatment of Copper Deficiency
The health benefits of cocoa also extend to the treatment of copper deficiency in patients on long-term enteral nutrition.
Available results from studies indicate that cocoa is valuable in copper substitution therapy, and this has resulted in significant improvements in the hemoglobin level, copper content, and leucocyte count in such patients.
Cocoa is considered valuable as a copper-rich component in any diet, and acts as a remedy for treating copper deficiency in such situations.
Enhances Cardiovascular Health
Several studies have shown that health benefits of cocoa provide effects on cardiovascular health too. Cocoa is rich in flavonoids; namely epicatechin, procyanidin and catechin.
These flavonoids have antioxidant properties, and they help in the protection of cells from damage while strengthening your heart.
Cocoa also helps in improving endothelial function, and stimulates the beneficial HDL cholesterol and lowers the bad LDL cholesterol. According to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition,
“The results suggest that polyphenolic substances derived from cocoa powder may contribute to a reduction in LDL cholesterol, an elevation in HDL cholesterol, and the suppression of oxidized LDL.”
Chocolate and Cocoa Can Provide Relief from Diarrhea
South American and European cultures have a history dating back to the 16th century of treating diarrhea with the health benefits of cocoa!
Modern-day science has indicated that they were onto something more than just old-tales!
It has been discovered by Scientists at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research that cocoa flavonoids bind to a protein that regulates fluid secretion in the small intestine, which potentially stops the trots in their tracks.
Cocoa Has Wound Healing Properties
Cocoa extracts have been trusted for their wound-healing, and therapeutic properties, in the manufacturing of natural medicinal products. The extracts help in preventing the development of various kinds of infections in the body, most likely due to the massive number of antioxidants in cocoa.
Coca has also been considered helpful along with the appropriate medication in eradicating Helicobacter pylori bacteria, from the body.
Cocoa and Chocolate Enhance Brain Function
Scientists have suggested that flavonol-rich cocoa may extend its beneficial effects to the brain, by maintaining a healthy functioning brain. The neuroprotective benefits could also have favorable effects on memory, and learning functions.
The consumption of cocoa-based products has been advocated by these findings, because they enhance the flow of blood to the brain. Evidence has been provided of the therapeutic potential for curing vascular disorders, by using coca!
Can Improve Blood Pressure
According to a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association,
“Data in this relatively small sample of otherwise healthy individuals with above-optimal blood pressure (BP) indicate that inclusion of small amounts of polyphenol-rich dark chocolate as part of a usual diet efficiently reduced BP and improved formation of vasodilative nitric oxide.”
10 Healthy Ways to Get Your Chocolate Fix
Looking for ways to get more cocoa in, satisfy your chocolate cravings, but avoid the downsides of regular chocolate? Try some of these healthy chocolate suggestions:
Get your daily hit of chocolate in your favorite post-workout protein hit. Refuel with a pea protein (try to avoid whey where possible) and get your chocolate fix without the sugar calories.
Although milk-chocolate junkies might be disappointed by cacao nibs at first, I promise they will grow on you. Cacao nibs are essentially broken up roasted cacao beans, the base product of chocolate.
Cacao is the healthiest part of chocolate, so you can get all the antioxidant benefits, without the sugar and fat overload. Perfect on top of a smoothie or in a trail mix.
Chocolate Goji Bliss Balls:
One of the best ways to get your sugar hit without all the blood sugar spike is by leveraging nature’s favorite sweetener: dates! These chocolate goji bliss balls are all the goodness of chocolate without the negative impacts.
Healthy Chocolate Spread:
As above, you can make your own chocolate spread by leaning on the sweet power of dates as well as the creaminess of a healthy avocado. This homemade chocolate spread will give you your nutella/chocolate mousse fix, without any guilt.
It’s pretty simple to make brownies healthy, using zero refined sugar and even keeping them dairy free. These seven ingredient black bean brownies will keep your chocolate fix satiated, while remaining low calorie (and even giving you a hit of protein!).
Grab a frozen treat from your local supermarket in the form of a Fudgsicle (or similar) or make your own frozen pops from scratch.
Add two teaspoons of cocoa powder and one teaspoon of honey or maple syrup to your morning porridge to give it a delicious chocolatey twist. If you want to really do it right, you can even add some cacao nibs on top!
Make your own chocolate pudding as easy as pie… well, as easy as pudding! For the simplest way to do this, make a classic chia pudding and add a couple of teaspoons of cocoa or cacao.
Dark Chocolate Bar:
Your favorite 70% chocolate bar is generally a pretty healthy option if you’re looking for a chocolate craving. Well Naturally make a great sugar-free alternative with only 62 calories per serve!
One way to mitigate the less healthy aspects of chocolate is to combine it with some delicious fresh (or frozen) fruit.
Bananas and strawberries are ideal to slice up, dip and throw in the freezer for a hot day. Use good quality (at least 70% cacao) chocolate for lower sugar, higher benefit chocolate.
See Also: Your Superfoods Chocolate Lover
Concluding Thoughts – Cocoa vs Chocolate
There is no doubt that the health benefits of cocoa found in chocolate are very powerful overall! However, this does not mean that you should go all out, and eat too much of chocolate.
Such as everything else we eat, chocolate still contains a certain number of calories, and we do not want to over indulge. Chocolate itself contain high amounts of calories, and should be eaten in moderation for the best overall benefits.
When you go to choose your chocolate, remember that there are poor quality chocolates in the market. Do your best to choose chocolate that does not contain any artificial ingredients, and you will ensure yourself that you are getting the maximum health benefits!
Milk chocolate provides an additional benefit of calcium with the presence of milk, and gives you a better taste (in my opinion).
The health benefits of cocoa and chocolate are certainly evident through research and anecdotal evidence, and chocolate should be consumed in the scope of a healthy diet!