by Erica Stelcik, MS
Sometimes demonized, but almost always welcomed with open arms, chocolate is a mystery. Dark chocolate, in particular, has its health (and soul) benefits too. Dark chocolate, how do I love thee? Let me count the nutrient-dense ways!
• Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants. Free radicals from chemicals and junk in our food cause damage (aging) in our various systems and may lead to cancer as well as other lifestyle diseases. The higher the amount of cacao in chocolate, the more beneficial it will be to protect against free radicals.
• Dark chocolate has been shown to lower high blood pressure, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Cacao phenols inhibit clumping that starts atherosclerosis.
• Dark chocolate is a gluten-free (and usually milk/dairy-free) food. Look for quality ingredients such as free trade or sustainably grown chocolate and avoid the milk, which has been shown in some studies to interfere with absorption of nutrients.
• Wonder why so many people crave chocolate? Many people (you know who you are!) are deficient in magnesium, which is helpful for muscle relaxation and stress handling. Cacao is rich in magnesium, which can be incredibly satisfying in chocolate form.
• Dark chocolate also has less sugar than white (which has no cacao benefits at all) or milk chocolate.
• A study published in March by UC San Diego showed that frequent chocolate consumption is associated with lower BMI, as in… more chocolate, less weight! The more chocolate they ate, the more total calories and total saturated fat they ate and yet the thinner they were. Epicatechins found in chocolate (and green tea), has been associated with weight loss.
Remember, a little bit of dark chocolate goes a long way! Bite into a chunk of 80% cacao chocolate and slowly savor the luxuriousness, silkiness, and darkness of a quality piece of chocolate. If you are used to white or milk chocolate, slowly work your way up to 80-85% cacao to give your taste buds a chance to “acclimate” to the dark side. Enjoy the love!
Erica Stelcik, MS, is real food nutrition and detox coach with a private practice in Costa Mesa. She prefers her chocolate in cacao bean form: raw, crunchy, and with no sugar added (and you thought you were a chocolate foodie!). She helps people address their nutritional deficiencies so they optimize their health naturally and safely. She can be reached at 949.596.9991.