Chocolate Treats for Your Health

February 27, 2009

So long February ’09. During my month-long celebration of chocolate, I’ve written on my birthday celebration at CoCo Sala chocolate lounge, chocolate mousse, and reasons to buy fair trade chocolate. While I definitely treated myself to more sweet indulgences this month than normal, I in no way intend to write off my chocolate habit in the months to come. In fact, as long as I keep it dark (which I love anyway) and in moderation, there’s no need to.

I don’t know if you’ve heard the good news, but chocolate can actually be good for your health! According to various studies, dark chocolate (at least 65% cacao) can help prevent cancer and possibly help lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease. Why? Because the cacao bean used to make chocolate is rich in antioxidant flavonoids. These wonderfully protective phytochemicals help defend our bodies from cell-damaging free radicals.

Another great thing about chocolate, which is also responsible for why most people love it so much, is the fact that chocolate (again, the cacao) releases feel-good endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are responsible for the same “high” you can get from a good work out or orgasm. No wonder sex and chocolate are often associated together.

So does all of this good news give you free range to indulge in as much chocolate as you want whenever you want? Uh, no. Again, the benefits come from dark chocolate and in small quantities – about 1 ounce per serving. Consider milk chocolate to be a watered-down version of the health-promoting dark chocolate. A small square of dark chocolate can be quite satisfying because you get more of that feel-good rush faster than you would from chocolate that contains less cacao. As a result, you can gain the benefits of chocolate with fewer calories.

If you don’t think you like dark chocolate, it’s probably because your taste buds are used to the ultra sweet and milky taste of typical mass-market chocolate. However, these common flavors stand in the way of you really tasting true chocolate flavor (which comes from the cacao). I recommend The Chocolate Connoisseur by Chloe Doutre-Roussel to learn more about choosing and enjoying quality chocolate.

So although we’re bidding farewell to this month known for chocolate giving and receiving, if you have a thing for this “food of the gods” as it was considered by the ancient Mayans, go ahead and treat yourself regularly to a little dark chocolate.

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