Do you crave chocolate? Have you ever wondered why this bitter seed from the cacao tree is so irresistible? Cacao has been cultivated for thousands of years so humans have long understood its special properties. It is the chemical phenethylamine that triggers an endorphin release which has a similar effect on the brain as falling in love. That is why everything looks just a little bit rosier when you have a taste of your favourite chocolate treat.
Chocolate can be healthy provided that it is at least 70% organic chocolate and sweetened without sugar. Many chocolate manufactures are starting to use alternative sweeteners to augment their treats. Yacon, stevia, honey and coconut nectar are just a few of the healthier sweet options on the market.
Five Healthy Reasons To Enjoy Raw Chocolate:
1. It can help hypertension-induced erectile dysfunction and those suffering from high blood pressure.
Dark chocolate contains flavanols, which have antioxidant properties and increase the bioavailability of nitric oxide, both of which help to reduce blood pressure. (1
2. It can help prevent/improve diabetes.
Flavanols found in dark chocolate can increase insulin sensitivity and the activity of pancreatic beta-cells, the cells responsible for secreting insulin in response to high blood glucose levels. (2
) (Note: If you have diabetes, make sure to eat chocolate that is sweetened with date or coconut sugar, in moderation.)
3. It promotes healthy cholesterol levels.
The antioxidants in dark chocolate can increase levels of the “good” HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. (3
) Also, the fatty acids in dark chocolate can make the “bad” LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol less susceptible to oxidative damage by altering its fatty acid composition.
4. It can help decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Studies show that in only two hours after consuming 40 grams of dark chocolate, individuals can experience coronary vasodilation, improved coronary vascular function, and reduced platelet adhesion – all of which reduce the risk of developing a cardiovascular disease. (4
5. It can help alleviate inflammatory conditions.
Consuming dark chocolate regularly in small amounts (20 grams every threes days) can reduce symptoms associated with allergies, skin disorders, asthma, heart disease, arthritis, and other conditions ending in “itis”. (5
Raw Chocolate Energy Truffles
Raw chocolate has twice as many antioxidants as processed chocolate so for this recipe look for it in your local health food store along with a healthy nut butter choice, such as hemp, almond or hazelnut.
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
1/2 cup organic nut butter, stirred well (almond or cashew works well)
1/2 cup dates, pitted
2 tbsp coconut butter
2 tsp raw honey or coconut syrup
1/2 tsp organic vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp pink rock or grey sea salt
1. Mix all the ingredients in a food processor to create a uniform texture (stopping to scrape down the sides occasionally).
2. Form into balls and place in fridge
Optional chocolate coating:
1. Melt an organic chocolate bar (coconut sweetened) over a double boiler.
2. When completely melted, dip the balls into the chocolate using a tablespoon.
3. Cool on parchment paper and store in the fridge.
Makes 12 balls. Keep chilled in the fridge until serving.
3. Jaakko Mursu, Sari Voutilainen, Tarja Nurmi, Tiina H. Rissanen, Jyrki K. Virtanen, Jari Kaikkonen, Kristiina Nyyssönen, Jukka T. Salonen: “Dark Chocolate Consumption Increases HDL Cholesterol Concentration and Chocolate Fatty Acids May Inhibit Lipid Peroxidation in Healthy Humans.
” Free Radical Biology and Medicine Volume 37, Issue 9, 1 November 2004, Pages 1351–1359
4. Andreas J. Flammer, Frank Hermann, Isabella Sudano, Lukas Spieker, Matthias Hermann, Karen A. Cooper, Mauro Serafini, Thomas F. Lüscher, Frank Ruschitzka, Georg Noll and Roberto Corti: “Dark Chocolate Improves Coronary Vasomotion and Reduces Platelet Reactivity.
” Circulation. 2007;116:2376-2382 November 20, 2007, Volume 116, Issue 21
5. Romina di Giuseppe, Augusto Di Castelnuovo, Floriana Centritto, Francesco Zito, Amalia De Curtis, Simona Costanzo, Branislav Vohnout, Sabina Sieri, Vittorio Krogh, Maria Benedetta Donati, Giovanni de Gaetano, and Licia Iacoviello: “Regular Consumption of Dark Chocolate Is Associated with Low Serum Concentrations of C-Reactive Protein in a Healthy Italian Population.
” J. Nutr. October 2008 vol. 138 no. 10 1939-1945