Much of the chocolate we see today is corrupted from the pure form used by these ancient civilizations. The added preservatives and processed sugars turn it from a healing and beneficial food to an unhealthy treat.
I researched the spiritual, emotional and physical healing powers of pure cacao and was eager to start using it everyday.
I know this might seem too good to be true. While I do eat chocolate everyday, it isn’t the generic Cadburys or Hershey’s milk chocolate. Although I don’t often eat 100% cacao (that’s way too bitter for me), I still eat no lower than 85% for the healing benefits, my favorite brands are Lindt and Green & Blacks.
Chocolate protects your heart and your skin.
There is a wealth of research suggesting that regularly eating small amounts of dark chocolate can reduce the risk of heart disease and cholesterol-related illnesses. Research has found that the blood platelets of people who frequently eat dark chocolate clump together more slowly. When blood platelets clump together, they can travel to the heart and brain, causing heart attacks and strokes. If our blood platelets clump together more slowly, the risk of these illnesses reduces.
A researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, conducted a study in which her participants ate either a 1.6-ounce bar of dark chocolate packed full of flavonoids or a bar of chocolate without flavonoids. The researchers were especially interested in epicatechin, which is a particularly active and potent flavonoid. After two weeks of eating chocolate, the participants’ blood vessel health was tested. Stiff blood vessels indicate poor blood health, so the easier they relax and dilate the healthier the individual. The blood vessels in the subjects who ate the flavonoid chocolate dilated and relaxed better than those who didn’t. Researchers attributed the improved blood vessel health to the flavonoids. This is because they believe that flavonoids stop cholesterol collecting in blood vessels which reduces the risk of strokes. Flavonoids also slow down the immune responses associated with clogged arteries, which is another risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.
Chocolate and Sun damage
The benefits of flavonoids don’t stop there. A German study found that they can protect you from sun damage. In their study, the women who drank hot chocolate fortified with flavonoids every day for 3 months were less affected by UV rays than the women who drank hot chocolate with lower amounts of flavonoids. This suggests that tucking into a bar of chocolate could not only be beneficial for your heart health but could also reduce damage caused by sun exposure.
It’s important to note that flavonoids are the compounds that make chocolate taste bitter. Because of this, milk chocolate has very few, and white chocolate has none. Therefore, to gain these benefits, you need to eat dark chocolate with a high cacao percentage.
Using chocolate as a coffee replacement
This might seem surprising to some of you, it did to me at first. Hot chocolate was always associated with settling down in the evenings, but swapping your cup of Joe for a cup of cacao could actually be the energy switch you’re looking for.
While cacao contains only a very small amount of caffeine, it does contain theobromine, a compound closely related to caffeine. Theobromine can give you a smoother energy boost without that well known jittery feeling. It also provides a similar feeling of euphoria as coffee but without the nasty crash. Cacao contains lots of magnesium, something which a lot of people are deficient in. Magnesium deficiency leads to feelings of fatigue and crankiness so swap your coffee for cacao and get prolonged and sustainable energy due to bioavailable magnesium intake.
Cacao for the soul.
It is pretty common knowledge that eating chocolate is good for the soul. Cacao is actually a heart opener. This means that it encourages feelings of connectedness, happiness and love. Chocolate can also be used as a stress reliever. In one study, researchers found that participants who drank the hot chocolate drink containing large amounts of cocoa polyphenols reported feelings of increased calmness and contentedness compared to those who drank the chocolate without these polyphenols. This suggests that eating dark chocolate can improve mood and reduce stress.
Cacao improves mood by increasing natural endorphins (feel good chemicals), serotonin (the neurotransmitter that regulates mood, influences sleep quality and even libido), and the release of phenylethylamine, which is known as the “love drug.”
So, don’t go crazy but grab yourself a bar of the darkest chocolate you can and eat around 1-2 squares a day to feel happier and more energetic!
Some healthy, vegan chocolate recipes to try: Energizing Dark Chocolate Truffles
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