For the Love of Chocolate
More than 1000 years ago, the ancient Mayans of South America believed that the cacao tree and its pods were of divine origin. Centuries later, they even named it Theobroma Cacao – “Food of the Gods”. They treasured cacao as a universal curative and invigorating remedy. Can you blame them for loving chocolate so much they literally worshipped it?!
Nowadays, food scientists have jumped on the bandwagon in proving just how good chocolate really is for us – which is great news for us chocoholics! Cocoa contains antioxidants that have been shown to help the body defend against ageing, tissue damage, inflammation, and diseases such as cancer and heart disease. The antioxidants in cocoa – called flavonols – also found in red wine, tea, apples and cherries, actually have the highest concentration in dark chocolate, and the higher the cocoa content, the better! This will be music to the ears of dark chocolate addicts but not so welcome to Milky Bar lovers, as white chocolate – with zero cocoa content contains no flavonols (sorry!).
Research has also linked chocolate consumption to lower blood pressure, reduced risk of strokes, lower (“bad”) LDL cholesterol and increased (“good”) HDL cholesterol, whilst other recent studies have also shown that regular consumption of chocolate is consistently associated with a reduced body mass index (BMI), compared with occasional consumption. Hand me another square of chocolate please! 🙂
Dark chocolate also contains two compounds that can lower stress levels – anandamide, which binds to receptors in the brain that produce feelings of euphoria and phenylethylamine (PEA), a substance sleeping naturally found in our nervous systems that is released throughout the brain when we “fall in love”. As well as its’ stress busting properties, a little chocolate can also go a long way in lifting your mood if you’re feeling down. This means there really is a proper scientific excuse to binge on chocolate when you have a broken heart because the chocolate does, momentarily, “heal” those feelings (not that I’m not encouraging any chocolate binges, but pure healthy cocoa can heal a hurting heart in the same way – if not more effectively – as junky chocolate – without the damage or fat!).
My favourite “guilt-free” indulgences when I’m feeling low are my All Healthy Raw Chocolate Truffle Balls, No Bake Fibre-Filled Brownie Bars, Raw Chocolate Avocado Coconut Bars, Chocolate Peanut Clusters or my Guilt-Free Chocolate Protein Pudding – all comforting delights!
NB: You will only benefit from chocolate that has 70% cocoa content or above. Eat up to four squares of good-quality dark chocolate every day for a dose of feel-good compounds which, as part of a healthy diet, should not compromise your weight either! For a healthful approach, think of chocolate as a small treat to satisfy your sweet tooth – though that’s not to say it can only be enjoyed on Valentine’s Day. Every day is a day for both chocolate and love (although the former should be enjoyed in moderation!)
Happy Valentine’s Day! 🙂
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