Ooey, gooey, fudgey, chips, bars, chunks, cookies, cakes…chocolate.
Do you have an intense affair with chocolate (like us)? When we say affair, we mean; you want it, but you don’t think it’s the best for you. You might have a bar, and it turns into two. Or, you start with a slice of cake, and it turns into the whole thing. You’re not a Lays lover; you’re devotee to the good sweet stuff.
Good news is that we’ve learned to embrace this love affair over the years, which is why we know you can too.
Where chocolate meets health.
Cacao solids, or raw cacao (the purest form of chocolate) is one of the world’s healthiest and most well-rounded foods. High in minerals, antioxidants and healthy fats , your chocolate habit can be so good for you!
What gives it a bad rep is when a company decides to take the cacao, heavily refine it, add processed dairy, refined sugar, hydrogenated oils, fillers, preservatives and other ingredients to extend shelf life, create a smooth creamy texture and an incredible sweetness that even anti-sugar activist can’t resist. It’s then and there that this delicious and healthy relationship with chocolate turns into something to find balance with.
FROM CACAO TO COCOA, WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Ancient Civilizations had it right when they traded cacao for currency, because the antioxidant health benefits of this amazing fruit are astonishing. In the raw, cacao contains antioxidant power that can outweigh blueberries by up to 20x! Not only do they kick some free-radicals butt, but they are incredibly high in minerals such as Magnesium and Sulfur.
Cacao contains special chemical compounds that promote health.
‘Phenolic Phytochemicals’ is an umbrella term for a large group of chemicals found in foods. They give food their colour, odor and flavor (why raw cacao is so bitter, and why blueberries are so… blue). Research has begun to show that an increase in phytochemicals is great for your health. These chemicals may be able to help protect your body from oxidative stress by supplying your bloodstream with antioxidants.
Combat chocolate cravings with chocolate.
You know what we are talking about when we say chocolate cravings. It could be that time of the month when your hormones are out of whack, or in the evening when you hit the couch. When that chocolate craving kicks in you seriously consider bathing in a tub of it. You know that feeling, right? Well, guess what, chances are it’s because your body is telling you that you need an important mineral, Magnesium.
Check it out, an adult female should consume around 310 mg/ day of Magnesium and an adult man around 400mg/ day. Guess what chocolate is high in? That’s right, Magnesium. In 100g of dark chocolate there is nearly 200mg of Magnesium. So, the best way to kill that chocolate craving, you guessed it…. chocolate. Isn’t that awesome? The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the higher the quantity of Magnesium. Here’s a win-win if we ever heard one.
OTHER AMAZING BENEFITS OF CACAO
- Cacao contains healthy fats such as monounsaturated fatty acids. This fat is commonly found in olive oil, and other vegetable based oils, and studies suggest that a diet containing MUFAs could assist with weight loss.
- Cacao has been shown to increase the pleasure chemical dopamine. This can cause feelings of relaxation and a reduction in stress.
- Cacao is also high in Sulfur, which has a reputation as the ‘beauty nutrient’– it helps create silky hair, clear skin, and beautiful nails.
- Cacao can help banish tummy troubles with prebiotic fibre, these special fibres feed your gut bacteria allowing them to flourish, ultimately aiding in the detoxification process.
MASS PRODUCED CHOCOLATE: WHAT IT’S NOT GOOD FOR…
Think quick, what’s your favourite chocolate bar? Putting health aside for one minute and going back in time, we would have to say, hands down, Cadbury Dairy Milk… rich, creamy, deliciousness. But what makes these conventional chocolate bars so creamy and delicious? Let’s take a second and check out Cadbury’s ingredient list:
Milk, sugar, wheat flour, cocoa butter, vegetable fats (palm, shea), cocoa mass, butter, dried skimmed milk, emulsifiers (E442, E476, soya lecithin), dried whole milk, glucose syrup, dried whey (from milk), salt, milk fat, raising agents (E450, sodium bicarbonate, ammonium bicarbonate), flavourings, barley malt extract, wheat starch, flour treatment agent (sodium metabisulphite (contains sulphites), yeast extract.
Here are some of the ingredients that we (as Nutritionists) would rather not see as the top ingredients:
- Dairy that isn’t organic
- White sugar (and lots of it)
- Processed vegetable fats
- Raising agents
- What the heck is E450 anyway?
Well, not only is white sugar + dairy hell of an addictive taste, but large quantities of sugar on a regular basis, combined with highly processed vegetable fats can contribute to oxidative stress on the body. It’s also hard to know the long-term effects of man-made emulsifying chemicals, such as E450.
Will eating 1 bar pose a health risk? Absolutely not. But, if you want to find a way to nourish your body as well as carry on with your chocolate affair, there are definitely better alternatives.
ORGANIC, FAIR TRADE CHOCOLATE, WHAT IT’S GOOD FOR…
Making the choco switch is going to be one of the most rewarding health swaps that you will ever have to do, we promise you. And, we’re not going to tell you we don’t ever eat anything else (we’re about enjoying life so we won’t turn away grandma’s cake because it’s not 70%+ cacao), but making the switch changes your taste buds and you learn to appreciate real chocolate, just like fine wine. You will also feel healthier for eating the fair trade, dark stuff.
The literal icing on the cake- when you eat dark chocolate there is usually less sugar and it’s a lot richer, so you don’t feel the need to eat an entire bar. You can autopilot this healthy swap, seriously.
WHERE AND WHAT TO LOOK FOR?
Most health food stores carry dark, organic, fair trade chocolate, as well as the health food section of your local supermarket. Look for the fair-trade logo and the organic logo on your chocolate.
We prefer chocolate that is at least 70%+ dark, but you can make a gradual switch by going 5% higher at a time. The Cadbury bar above is only about 20% cocoa…!
Also, try to stay away from dairy or milk chocolate and refined sugar (all you have to do is check the handy ingredients list on the back). If the bar contains cacao, you are yielding more health benefits of cocoa, but remember that cocoa still contains a nutrition power punch.
Top tip for buying chocolate: the first ingredient should never be sugar or milk. Look for cocoa mass / cocoa butter.
Here are a few of our favourite chocolate bars:
Camino Raspberries Dark Chocolate
The perfect combination of Camino’s mouth-watering dark chocolate and naturally sweet, tangy raspberry morsels. Rich and intense, this new chocolate bar is sure to satisfy all lovers of this little berry.
Giddy Yoyo Maca is a natural aphrodisiac, energy enhancer, libido booster, hormone balancer (and so much more) for men and women. Maca and chocolate is like peanut butter and jelly, bread and butter… it just feels “right”.
Endangered Species Dark Chocolate With Sea Salt
72% dark chocolate with crunchy almond bits in this chocolate bar is all you need! Increase your knowledge of owl species by reading the inside of the wrapper. Your chocolate purchase supports species conservation efforts worldwide!
Zazubean Squeeze Dark Organic Chocolate
70% dark organic chocolate with zesty pure orange oil, crunchy candied ginger pieces and Yerba mate that is high in antioxidants and helps to stimulate the mind and body!