In the 1600's and 1700's cocoa's reputation was for being a helpful medicine for angina and heart pain. Only in the mid-1900's did cocoa lose its health cred and tip into the "unhealthy" side of the board. Fortunately we are over that! Medical studies show that the flavonoids that cocoa contains are very beneficial for:
Lowering blood pressure, lowering bad cholesterol while upping the good, increasing blood flow to the brain, keeping cortisol levels lower (helps with stress/anxiety) protecting the skin from some of the damaging UV rays, and many other little benefits that do a body good.
I am Not, however, talking about the typical chocolate candy bars or milk chocolate anything. This is DARK chocolate (which admittedly took me awhile to adjust to) the darker the better, at least 70%. Check the ingredients on the label!
Think cacao - (pronounced ca-cow)from now on. In it's raw state it is a virtual mineral supplement! Loaded with magnesium, chromium, iron, zinc, copper - so many of the minerals we tend to be deficient in! The anti-oxidant power is 15-20 times more than green tea, 30 times more than red wine, and 15 times more than blueberries. In it's raw state this cacao bean has the highest vitamin C content of ANY food! Seriously! As I switch over to the Super Foods I'm taking less and less in the supplement department. I'd rather eat than take pills, wouldn't you?
When "we" started processing cacao into all kinds of chocolates, the processing has destroyed all the good stuff about cacao - gone - poof! So sorry to tell you that your KitKat or Snickers is worthless nutritionally and giving you a lot of calories, fat and chemicals. (When I think of my snack drawer at work, 35 years ago, I just cringe! But no wonder I was sick all the time!)
So like a lot of our food - phudes - the basic food was a superior product , but processing destroyed the benefits and crapped it up. When I started learning about cacao, I must say I did pause as I mentally said goodbye to all but raw, unprocessed chocolate. Amazing how quickly one adjusts though. Once you experience the benefits of consuming the real thing, OMG, fantastic!
I'm going to a luncheon next week at a place in town called LeChocolat. The owner of the store suffered from fibromyalgia for years, and had other health issues. But she researched the power of cacao (it IS a bonafide Super Food) and began to take it like you would a medicine, daily. Long story (which I haven't heard yet) short, she was totally relieved of all symptoms within months - and has been a dynamo ever since! That's why she opened this shop in town. She does sell "regular" chocolate but I understand she is a valuable source of raw cacao and information.
To carry on here, cacao also is rich in flavonoids. In case the word "flavonoid" isn't familiar, generally speaking they are a class of water soluable plant pigments that have many catagories and other names that can drive you nuts trying to learn them all, where they come from and their chemical analysis. (Trust me, been there! One of my least fav classes!)
Simply think of a flavonoid as a good thing. They help fight free-radicals like anti-oxidants. ( If that doesn't help you understand it, wait for the blog on free-radicals, haha! I used to think they were good things, free-radicals. I've been called free spirited and a radical. Kind of hippie-like. I am not, however, a free-radical. No connection what-so-ever! Good thing I went to school I'm thinkin'.)
One little square of very good quality dark chocolate daily is fine. I have mine with a cup of green tea in the afternoon - such a treat. I also have cacao powder I will add 1/2 teaspoon to my oatmeal which is dancing with cranberries, walnuts, blueberries and almond milk already. I learned to love the dark because it beats the heck out of no chocolate whatever. Now I actually prefer it. I had a taste of milk chocolate a while back and all I could taste was the fat - it wasn't pleasant at all so I can pass it up easily now. That has happened with so many things I used to eat - I'll have a bite now and wonder what I ever liked about it. Believe me, enough time passes by and you really get over addictions and cravings.
It was soooo hard for me to give up sugar in my coffee. Alas, after years of diddling around with flavored creams, I'm ok without the sugar. THEN I watch Dr. Oz and he said if you add a spoon of raw sugar into your coffee it gives an additional "boost" to the boost you get from coffee. Swell. So I though, hmmm, let's try it. Ya know what? I didn't like it. It was too sweet. Well, thank God, huh? The experiments are seemingly never over.
Dieting? No worries. One little square of dark chocolate will do you more benefit than harm. Enjoy the heck out of that one piece! You can find raw cacao powder in health food stores or on line - and also cacao nibs, little pieces of the cacao bean. Great in smoothies too!
Life is good!
But it's better with chocolate!