If you have a sweet tooth, dark chocolate offers rewards beyond melt-in-your-mouth “yumminess.” Besides satisfying our taste buds, it is also heart-healthy. Most of its health benefits originate from flavonoids that act as antioxidants. For several centuries, in fact, cocoa and chocolate have been used in many cultures as a type of medicine.
Cacao or Cocoa?
Cacao refers to a small evergreen tree of the species Theobroma cacao. Its seeds are called cacao beans or cocoa beans. Cacao seeds are usually roasted. Cocoa is produced by grinding these roasted seeds into a powder. If not roasted, they are referred to as raw cacao or “raw chocolate.”
Maintaining the raw state and opting for a higher cacao percentage renders a higher nutritional value. Keep in mind, however, that cacao is somewhat bitter. The higher the cacao percentage, the more bitter the flavor. Many manufacturers remove the flavonoids (to decrease the bitterness), but in doing so, many of the health benefits are lost.
Good for your Heart!
The heart-healthy aspect of dark chocolate is impressive. In 2011, seven collective studies were conducted consisting of more than 114,000 participants. The objective was to evaluate the association of chocolate consumption with the risk of developing cardiometabolic disorders (hypertension, elevated fasting glucose, abdominal obesity, high cholesterol, elevated triglycerides). A comparison was made between the highest and lowest level of chocolate consumption. Five of the seven studies confirmed that chocolate can reduce the risk of these disorders. The highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in heart disease and a 29% reduction in stroke as compared to the lowest levels of chocolate consumed. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory aspects of dark chocolate also lend to these health benefits.
The healthy nutrients of dark chocolate are only present in the pure and unprocessed product. Milk chocolate has a lower antioxidant content and is loaded with sugar. The milk in milk chocolate actually cancels out the antioxidant effect.
Heart and Soul
Dark chocolate’s delicious attributes are good news to the chocolate lover. But let’s remember the Good News from the Lover of our souls: “How that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
(1 Corinthians 15:3b-4 / KJV)
Easy and Healthy Homemade Dark Chocolate
½ cup natural organic cacao powder
½ cup coconut oil, melted
1-2 tablespoons pure raw honey
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
A pinch of sea salt
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until well mixed and smooth. Freeze until hardened, approximately 30 minutes. (Can be frozen in candy molds, piped out using a cake decorator to form chocolate chips, or poured into a flat tray lined with wax or parchment paper to form bars.) Store chocolate in refrigerator.
(Credit and special thanks to PrimallyInspired.com)
If you decide to try this, let us know what you think. What recipes have you made using dark chocolate?