Chocolate: Health Benefits
The truth is, chocolate is very, very good for you. Honestly. Chocolate in its raw form contains a long list of key nutrients qualifying it as a 'superfood.' Chocolate's greatest benefits are delivered when taken in its natural form, the cacao bean, or the broken version of the bean called 'nibs.'
Raw Cacao is the highest known source of antioxidants by a factor of almost 5! It has nearly 20 times the antioxidant levels of red wine and up to 30 times what is found in green tea!*
Cacao is remarkably rich in magnesium. This is likely the primary reason women crave chocolate during the menstrual period. Magnesium balances brain chemistry, builds strong bones, and is associated with more happiness. Over 80% of Americans are chronically deficient in magnesium!
Cacao does contain trace amounts of caffeine and theobromine. However, experiments have shown that these stimulants are far different when the bean is consumed raw as opposed to roasted.
Cooked Chocolate is a Caffeine-Like Stimulant; When Raw, Not So Much!
Experimental research of chocolate by homeopaths indicates its stimulating effect when cooked. One experiment conducted with a decoction of roasted ground cacao beans in boiling water produced an excitement of the nervous system similar to that caused by black coffee, an excited state of circulation, and an accelerated pulse. When the same decoction was made with raw, unroasted beans neither effect was noticeable, leading the researchers to conclude that the physiological changes were caused by aromatic substances released during roasting.
Cacao seems to diminish appetite, probably due to its monoamine oxidase enzyme inhibitors (MAO inhibitors). These digestive enzyme inhibitors differ from those found in most nuts and seeds. These rare MAO inhibitors actually produce favorable results when consumed by allowing more serotonin and other neurotransmitters to circulate in the brain. According to Dr. Gabriel Cousens, MAO inhibitors facilitate youthening and rejuvenation.
Phenyl ethylamine (PEA) is also found in chocolate. PEA is an adrenal-related chemical that is also created within the brain and released when we are in love. This is one of the reasons why love and chocolate have such a longstanding correlation. PEA also plays a role in increasing focus and alertness.
Cacao is high in the beauty mineral sulfur. Sulfur builds strong nails, hair and shiny skin, detoxifies the liver, and supports healthy pancreas functioning. Anecdotal reports indicate that cacao is so high in sulfur it detoxifies mercury.
Cocoa Contains Flavanoids/Antioxidants
Researchers have found that raw and/or minimally processed cocoa contains flavanoids similar to those found in green tea. According to preliminary studies, these antioxidants have been linked to helping accomplish the following:
- Decrease blood pressure
- Improve circulation
- Lower death rate from heart disease
- Improve function of endothelial cells that line the blood vessels
- Defend against destructive molecules called free radicals, which trigger cancer, heart disease and stroke
- Improve digestion and stimulate kidneys
- Help treat patients with anemia, kidney stones and poor appetite
Though raw cacao is best for receiving maximum benefits and the greatest quantity of nutrients, chocolate in its most familiar form has received praise for heart health, lowering cholesterol and delivering antioxidants.
Why Does Chocolate Get a Bad Rap?
So with all of these remarkable health benefits, where did we get the notion that chocolate wasn't good for us? Well, most of the health problems are generally linked to the addition of other ingredients to chocolate such as milk, sugar and preservatives. And as mentioned, the raw form of chocolate is the most beneficial, containing the most nutrients and the least harmful side effects.
Cacao beans contain no sugar. When looking for chocolate to tickle your sweet tooth, the least harmful sweetener to consume with the cacao bean is agave nectar. Agave nectar comes right from the agave cactus (the same one used to make tequila). Agave has a very low rating on the glycemic index, which means that it does not make your blood sugar spike when consumed, and is safe for diabetics.
So what's the gripe with sugar other than making you fat? Well, for one thing it suppresses the immune functions of the body for up to 8 hours after its consumption. Hmmm?
Concerning allergies, it is important to note that a recent study showed that only one out of 500 people who thought they were allergic to chocolate actually tested positive. It is typically the case that the person is in fact allergic to milk and dairy products.
Chocolate Studies: What's Not To Love?
There have been many different studies showing the possible effects of chocolate consumption on groups of participants.
One such study by the Associated Press: 'Study: Dark chocolate Lowers Blood Pressure' printed on August 27, 2003 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In another study conducted at Pennsylvania State University, a group of participants, split into two groups, ate the same low fat diet except for one of the groups got a chocolate bar and the other group received a high-carb snack. Total blood cholesterol and LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels didn't vary with either snack. But, increases in HDL ("good") cholesterol and reductions in triglycerides (a heart-risky type of blood fat) were found in the people eating chocolate.
It is important to note that these health benefits are seen for people who eat traditional chocolate bars that have been blended with large amounts of sugars, dairy products, and artificial flavorings. To benefit from eating chocolate, one should be eating dark chocolates that have a high percentage of cocoa content. Even more beneficial to one's health is eating cocoa is the crudest format possible. Raw cacao has all the original healthy cacao butter, containing all the essential fatty acids and amazing taste naturally found in the bean. Processing, cooking and roasting corrupt the delicate, complex flavor of the cacao nib (the bean without the skin). Raw cacao is one of the most, if not the most, nutrient rich and complex foods known to man.
*NOTE: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Raw Chocolate is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
This article was reprinted with permission of the author.
©2010, 2011. http://www.neverthesamechocolate.com.
This article was excerpted with permission from the book:
The Chocolate Fast: Embracing your Bliss one Truffle at a time!
by Stasia Bliss.
What if eating chocolate for one full day, guilt-free, could tap you into your most authentic self? The Chocolate Fast suggests that when you embrace something you love-fully, there is an alignment that takes place within you that allows you to tap into the creative power of the universe, your birthright. Author Stasia Bliss brings yogic wisdom, quantum physics, the law of attraction, knowledge from various time-honored traditions, and modern studies together with her love of chocolate to create a unique and heartfelt opportunity to once again find bliss in everyday life! Explore how our relationship with chocolate mirrors our relationship with the deepest part of self.
About the Author
Stasia Bliss resides in Portland, Oregon where she teaches yoga, creates raw transformational chocolate and practices life alchemy. Stasia is passionate about life and empowering others to live from a place of passion and joy. She is grateful for the experiences which encourage her to expand to become bigger and for every person she meets, in whom she can see a mirror to her inner state of being. She is thrilled to be able to share her message and life's work -- that truly -- Life is Bliss, find yours! http://www.neverthesamechocolate.com.