Chocolate lovers beware! This article is about to change your life.
Even the word itself can stir deep passions in most of the female population. What does chocolate mean to you? Excitement, indulgence, naughtiness, pleasure, sadness, guilt, joy? How about healthy, nourishing, beneficial and wholesome? Hmmm, we didn’t think so. What if we could tell you that chocolate is actually good for you? Read on as we review the facts and myths of our favourite indulgence. We promise that you won’t look at chocolate in the same way ever again!
WHAT IS CHOCOLATE ?
Before we begin, let’s take a look at where it all began.
The main ingredient of chocolate, cocoa, originated in Mexico and was known as the Food of Gods by the Aztecs, Mayas and Incas. It wasn’t until Mr. Columbus himself mixed cocoa with vanilla and sugar that it became the first form of chocolate. It was then served as an aphrodisiac beverage to wealthy and powerful Europeans. Soon solidified into chocolate as we know it today, the quality of pure cocoa was manipulated further during World War 1 where US troops realized it had nutritional benefits, and they needed to ration their bars during battle.
WHY IS CHOCOLATE GOOD FOR YOU ?
Chocolate contains monounsaturated and saturated fats, dietary potassium fiber, magnesium, potassium, copper, calcium, iron and polyphenols (antioxidants). In fact, chocolate has more phenolic antioxidants than most of the foods that we consume today.
PREMENSTRUAL SYDNDROME (PMS)
Due to its high concentrations of magnesium (100mg in 100g of chocolate and 520mg/ 100g of pure cocoa powder), chocolate can help combat PMS symptoms as our magnesium levels decrease during our menstrual cycle. Women need between 310 -320mg of magnesium a day. This means chocolate is a great source for boosting levels. This may also explain why we reach for chocolate during our time of the month!
Many studies have found that eating chocolate can protect your skin from UV light. Applying cocoa to your skin for a minimum of 5 days will also improve skin tone and elasticity. This is also the reason why cocoa butter is a frequent ingredient in our skin moisturizers!
MOOD AND COGNITIVE FUNCTION
Chocolate has been found to have a range of effects on mood and cognitive functions. One study discovered that just 30 days of consumption will improve calmness and feelings of contentment. Chocolate can also stimulate feelings of euphoria which may also be a contributor to our cravings for the sweet stuff.
Your brain will also perform better if you consume chocolate. A significant study has found that countries with the highest chocolate consumers have also produced the most Nobel prize winners. As if we needed any more reasons to eat chocolate!
Eating chocolate 15 minutes before exercise will enhance your performance, delay fatigue and assist with glycogen repletion Combing cocoa powder with milk has even more effects on exercise performance as it increases skeletal muscle protein turnover, especially if consumed after a workout session. Try our recipe below after your next sweat sesh!
Chocolate milk recipe
- One heaped teaspoon of pure cocoa power
- One teaspoon of sweetener of your choice (we use stevia)
- 250ml of milk of your choice (we use full cream)
- Directions. Make a chocolate paste by combining a little bit of hot water with the cocoa power and sweetener. Add the milk and stir. Add some ice cubes for a really refreshing post workout drink!
APPETITE SUPPRESSION AND WEIGHT LOSS
Yep. You read that right! Eating chocolate suppresses appetite and can even lead to weight loss. The effects of weight loss and chocolate dates back to 18th century history. The most famous account is from Carl Von Linne (also as Linneas) who was the first to acknowledge that chocolate had weight loss benefits.
Chocolate can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and stroke. It can also be used as therapy for inflammation, immune dysfunction, autoimmune diseases, allergies and anxiety.
WHY DOES CHOCOLATE GET A BAD REPUTATION ?
Chocolate as we know it today is made by drying, roasting, crushing and pressing fermented cacao seeds into cocoa powder and mixing it with milk, sugar and cacao butter. The more processed the chocolate the more it loses its therapeutic benefits. Processing can see the phenolic antioxidants reduce from 100% to just 10%. Dark chocolate mostly contains 50% cocoa, commercially produced milk chocolate contains 10%, and white chocolate doesn’t have any cocoa solids at all. It the high sugar and fat content of our commercial chocolate bars that is giving it a bad name.
The Australian Government lists chocolate as a discretionary food. They class discretionary foods as unnecessary and non-essential for eating. According to the Australian Government, discretionary foods are being over consumed by Australians which is contributing to our poor health.
Chocolate also contains caffeine and if consumed in large doses it can be toxic. However, you would need to consume over 50kg of chocolate for it to have any serious effects!
The most substantial impact of consuming chocolate is its link in reducing our iron absorption. Research has shown that as much as 70% can be reduced from a 40-100mg serving.
Chocolate has also been linked to acne and migraines. However, more sufficient studies are needed to ascertain these claims.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR CHOCOLATE LOVERS ?
Choosing dark chocolate over milk and white varieties is the way to go if you want to reap the full beneficial effects of this wondrous superfood. Research suggests that 40-100g of dark chocolate per day is the most advantageous for our health and can provide 200-500mg of phenolic antioxidants. Just make sure you choose varieties with a minimum of 50-60% cocoa mass, but aim for 75%-80% where possible. As with all goods things in in life, chocolate should be consumed in moderation and 100g of chocolate per day is also high in sugar. The recommended serving amount is 25g per day. If you want to avoid the sugar and fat altogether then you can get can creative and make your own chocolate snacks and deserts (check out our recipe below). We also love adding a heaped teaspoon of pure cocoa powder to our yoghurts and morning porridge.
It is important to make sure you are storing your chocolate properly before consumption. Australia’s oldest family owned chocolate company Haigh’s suggests to store your chocolate in a cool dry cupboard away from any heat, light, strong spices and at temperature between 15-20c. This will ensure ultimate freshness.
Chocolate may not be the most obvious health food out there and its use in health promotion is still very much under debate to this day. However, there is no denying the scientific evidence of its claims which has not only been profoundly researched to date, but is also firmly ingrained in its history. Next time you are thinking of passing on that piece of chocolate, think again!
No bake sugar free chocolate
- 200gram (1 cup) of melted coconut oil
- 30grams (¼ cup) pure cacao/ cocoa powder
- 2-4 tablespoons brown rice syrup or liquid stevia
- Directions. Melt coconut oil over a very low heat. Add the cocoa powder and sweetener. Mix until well combined. Pour into chocolate moulds. Place in the freezer and wait for a minimum of 2 hours. Keep in an air tight container in the fridge or freezer.