To All My Fellow Chocoholics

Chocolate is my favorite food group! It wasn’t until I became intrigued by health and nutrition that I was able to decrease my sugar intake and transition into the dark chocolate market instead of the candy bars loaded with sugar, high fructose corn syrup and more chemicals than the periodic table! I think for people with a sweet tooth or 2, they have the capability to make this same transition.  Many people love a sweet treat at night.  By slowly increasing the amount of cocoa in your chocolate bar you will be able to learn to love dark chocolate and never look back! It will be especially easy for people who like the flavors of dark beers, coffee or dry wines as they hold similar pallet characteristics.

But why is it important to your health to make this change?

Dark chocolate holds fascinating health benefits.  Many people would be able to name that the antioxidant content of the cocoa makes it a health option.  This is true as the antioxidants present in dark chocolate help fight inflammation which is linked to nearly every disease as they fight oxidative stress creating disease.  However, the power of chocolate goes beyond this antioxidant property and becomes much more and today I plan to focus on its cardiovascular effects.

Chocolate comes from the cocoa tree and we actually consume the seeds after they have been fermented.  Fermentation in itself offers so many nutritional benefits to our GI tract.  When you consume dark chocolate, the processing of this plant is minimal and amount of cocoa is high.  You can find this amount as a percentage on the chocolate bar itself.  The higher content percentage, the more of the nutrients we are about to discuss are present, making it healthier.  When you pick up a Snickers, the cocoa is hardly present as it has been highly processed with sugar and dairy products to give it a sweeter more desirable flavor the American population is accustomed to.  

Cocoa seeds hold very promising affects on cardiovascular disease.  They are high in fiber as most seeds are.  This nutrient in place of the sugar candy bars are filled with improve our cholesterol levels by lowering the LDL or bad cholesterol as well as total cholesterol while increasing HDL or good cholesterol.  In addition, the antioxidants will continue to lower cholesterol as they help decrease the oxidized LDL cholesterol which can further damage tissues in our bodies leading to more disease.

Chemical compounds present in chocolate can also help improve blood flow which will improve oxygen flow to the tissues as well as improve blood pressure, again improving cardiovascular health.  These chemicals are called flavanols and also present in red wines.  They stimulate the arteries to produce a gas which makes them more permeable.  This increased flexibility allows improved blood flow.

If these benefits do not give you a good enough reason to switch to dark chocolate, go back to the antioxidant affects that will help to decrease and slow aging, decrease your risk for developing disease throughout the entire body and improve your immune health.  You can even look for dark chocolate bars that have more nutrition packed into them.  Those with almonds or hazelnuts have even more fiber and minerals present in them.  These may be even better options for people looking to improve their blood sugar regulation as their increased fiber content will slow down digestion and reduce blood sugar spikes.

Moral of the story is, chocolate can be part of any healthy diet and can in fact improve a diet.  So get out there and find your new favorite candy bar!

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