Jess: I don’t know about you, but I’ve got to have my chocolate fix when it hits. And pronto! The longer I deny the craving, the more I tend to gobble down more than what’s good for me. I’m no chocoholic really; but when the cacao fever bites, it grabs a hold and never lets go.
Now, I’m watching my weight (aren’t we all?) and my chocolate manic episodes could waylay any carefully laid diet plans. Or does it have to? I’ve found a way to work around my sudden cravings so that chocolate need not be a diet evil. My secret? Dark chocolate.
It’s a Superfood
Did you know that dark chocolate is regarded as a superfood? It is antioxidant-rich. In fact, pure dark chocolate may have more free radical fighters than red wine. Dark chocolate is made by adding sugar and fat to the cacao beans. No milk. The bitter taste is not for everyone; but if you develop a taste for dark chocolate, you may enjoy a piece of heaven while eating healthy.
But why zero in on dark chocolate? Isn’t milk chocolate equally great? Well, it seems milk chocolate is far from being as nutritionally dense as dark chocolate. The nutrients lie in the cacao seeds which make up a larger percentage of dark chocolate than it does in the milk variety. Not all dark chocolate, however, are made equal. When we think of chocolate, we picture a scrumptious bar of the good stuff. The dark chocolate I’m referring to (well the healthiest forms that is), doesn’t point to dark chocolate candies or bars, typically made from roasted cacao seeds. These chocolate bars have a higher quantity of sugar and fats in them which make them less preferable to raw chocolate or cacao powder.
Raw chocolate comes from un-roasted cacao seeds; cacao powder is produced from ground cacao seeds. These are the kinds I have in mind as healthy chocolate eats.
It’s Anti-Inflammatory and Cardiovascular Protective
Our gut flora seems to love chocolate as much as we do. Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria feast on dark chocolate by breaking down its components to produce anti-inflammatory compounds that protect the cardiovascular system from suffering diseases due to inflammation. Dark chocolate has also been found to act as a vasodilator. Being so, it helps dilate blood vessels, the action of which consequently lowers blood pressure. Milk and white chocolates aren’t known to do such thing. Small amounts of dark chocolate have been known to be a sort of blood thinner, too. Acting somewhat like aspirin, chocolate can reduce blood clots by tamping down incidences of platelet clumping. By this action, chocolate decreases the risk of heart attacks.
Eating Chocolate Without the Guilt
Knowing all these health benefits plus the self-discipline for moderate indulgence affords me that 100% guilt-free feeling for getting my chocolate fix.
Now, how to take it? For me, dark chocolate is best taken as raw chocolate or cacao powder. So you can savour every chocolate moment, let me share some luscious ideas that incorporate dark chocolate’s best forms:
- Add raw cacao nibs in your muesli or protein bars. Aside from the protein and calcium, you get added magnesium, manganese, iron and Vitamin B2 from cacao nibs. You can also include raw cacao nibs in trail mixes and oatmeal bars or cookies.
- Make a healthy hot chocolate drink from cacao powder. Sweeten with raw honey and your choice of milk.
- Chocolate dipped banana popsies are easy to make. Kids will love you for these. Divide your bananas into two and stick in your popsicle sticks. Melt dark chocolate and dip your bananas popsicles in it. Yum! Top with shredded coconut or nuts if you wish then stick these in the freezer. These frozen delights make for a great, healthy dessert.
- If you want more yummy treats, you can also try this delicious homemade healthy nut fudge.
And there you have it…as long as you walk the line of moderation, you can have chocolate sans the regret. Besides, we’ve got to enjoy and live a little, too. 🙂
Jess Lorek is an architect, a wedding photographer, health enthusiast and blogger. Having experienced the adverse effects of taking strong antibiotics to treat her digestive problem, she was inspired to write about proper nutrition and personal wellness to share with others the importance of keeping the mind and body fit, active and healthy. Read more of Jess’s posts here or connect with Jess here.