For most people, the word “chocolate” certainly would not be considered synonymous with the word “healthy“. Healthy infers a food source that provides nutritional benefit for our bodies.
A recent study conducted by scientists at Cornell University found that cocoa powder, the base from which chocolate is made, contains nearly TWICE the antioxidants of red wine, and up to three times the antioxidants found in green tea.
It is now known that raw cocoa, derived from the FRUIT of the Cacao tree, contains more than 300 chemically identifiable compounds, making it one of the most complex food sources on this planet. In addition, it has been established that raw cocoa has the highest antioxidant value of ALL natural foods in the world!
Fresh cocoa is super-rich in strong antioxidants called flavonoids (up to 10% concentration per mass of cocoa). These flavonoids help maintain healthy blood flow and blood pressure. They also help keep fatty substances in the blood from congealing together, thus decreasing the risk of oxidation and clogging of the arteries.
Flavonoids also help keep the important blood platelets from sticking together … a condition that can lead to blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes.
The antioxidants found in dark chocolate help to neutralize naturally occurring ‘free radical’ molecules in the body. Free radicals, if left unchecked, can damage the core structure of healthy cells which leaves them susceptible to disease.
Free radicals can also alter the structure of the cell’s DNA, which is the blueprint for a cell to reproduce and duplicate itself. Damaged DNA can lead to malignancy, tumors, and cancer.
Healthy dark chocolate as a nutritional supplement is not merely all about antioxidants.
Cocoa is a good source of the minerals sulfur, calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, copper, potassium, manganese, plus some of the important B vitamins.
Of these minerals, magnesium is by far the most important. Proper magnesium levels in the body are essential for a healthy heart and ensure its strength and vigor.
Just as with antioxidants, organic dark chocolate is the highest rated natural food for providing this heart healthy essential mineral.
Another mineral with a high concentration in cocoa is sulfur. Sulfur promotes healthy skin, helps build strong nails and healthy hair, helps detoxify the liver, and supports healthy functioning of the pancreas.
Organic dark chocolate also provides supplemental benefits for the brain.
Cocoa is a potent source for the amino acids which make the neurotransmitters known as serotonin and dopamine. These two agents help alleviate depression and stimulate feelings of well being.
Phenylethylanmine (PEA) controls our ability to focus attention and stay alert. It has also been indicated as an integral element in maintaining mental alertness and countering the onset of dementia.
Another healthy chemical compound found in healthy dark chocolate, 2% – 3% per mass, is ‘theobromine.
This health promoting compound stimulates the central nervous system, relaxing smooth muscles and dilating blood vessels. It is also a known diuretic, and has been clinically used to remove excess body fluids, stimulate the heart, and reduce high blood pressure.
Chocolate has been known as the “comfort” or “happy” food, and rightfully so.
Anandamide, a neurotransmitter, is found in significant quantities in cocoa. Anandamide occurs naturally in the brain, and is released when we are feeling good. The introduction of more of this ‘bliss chemical’ helps contribute to our feeling of having a ‘natural high’.
ABC news reported in 2005 that the average American consumes 11.5 pounds of chocolate per year. This amounts to a full 1% of the American diet. These numbers are really not surprising.
There is no question that humans have for centuries maintained a love affair with chocolate. Accepting organic, healthy dark chocolate as a heart and mind healthy food instead of simply a feel good snack certainly takes some getting used to.
Can you envision a conversation at the dinner table like this … “Billy, you’re not leaving this table until you finish your dark chocolate”?
Although that situation seems strange, providing yourself and your loved ones with a consistent diet rich in healthy nutrients does not, and organic dark chocolate may clearly be indicated as a wise menu addition.
However, not all “Healthy Dark Chocolate” products are created equal. The challenge now lies in determining which of these delicious, satisfying, cocoa rich products provide the most health benefits for you and your family.