Health Benefits of Chocolate ~ A little chocolate every day may benefit your health! (If only all health advice was this sweet!)
If you’ve been denying yourself chocolate in your effort to eat healthier, you may want to rethink. Included in a balanced whole-foods diet, a little high-quality dark chocolate actually provides a number of healthy compounds while keeping you from feeling deprived.
Just don’t go overboard. Even the healthiest chocolate shouldn’t account for a large portion of your diet! Read on to find out more.
Health Benefits of Chocolate
A recent study published in the journal Heart found that regular consumption of chocolate was associated with a reduction in heart disease risk. Other studies have found that chocolate has a beneficial impact on cholesterol, blood pressure, and cognitive function.
Some have even suggested that regular eaters of chocolate weigh less than those who don’t consume it, but there’s some controversy over this finding. Plus, you probably already know from experience that chocolate can have a positive impact on your mood. It also provides a decent amount of iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
Related: Healthy Treats: Delicious & Healthy Ways to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
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Health Benefits of Chocolate ~ Which Chocolate to Choose
Flavanoids and polyphenols, the health-promoting compounds in chocolate, are found in higher concentrations in dark chocolate. You’ve probably seen percentages gracing the labels of dark chocolates, touting that they contain 55, 70, or 85 percent cacao. The higher that number, the more of those healthy compounds it contains.
Sugar and butterfat, on the other hand, aren’t so great for health. So skip the super-sweet low cacao options and try treating yourself to some really well-made dark chocolate. I prefer organic when possible, and there’s usually a great bar on sale at my local coop for under $3 (Theo and Green and Black bars cost that little at Thrive Market online). These are my favorites:
♦ Equal Exchange (organic, fair trade). Their “Very Dark” bar is one of my favorites. It has 71% cacao and less sugar than many others out there. I also like their Espresso Bean, with 55% cacao. (Bonus points for this company: The “plastic” wrapping the bar is biodegradable, which means you can throw it in the compost. However, given how many wrappers I pitched before noticing that, I would imagine not many people are actually keeping these out of landfills.)
♦ Theo (organic, fair trade). They make an intense 85% cacao bar worth trying. I particularly like their mint and raspberry bars (both 70% cacao). They also have some unusual flavors like chili and ginger if you want something a little different.
♦ Lily’s. While not organic, Lily’s is fair trade and non-GMO and uses stevia as a sweetener, so you can get your chocolate fix without maxing out your sugar budget. And a 160-calorie serving contains a whopping 12g of fiber! I like their original bar best, with 55% cacao. They also make a sea salt version.
Related: Combine your chocolate fix with a serving of veggies in these amazing recipes using pumpkin, beans, and zucchini.
Health Benefits of Chocolate ~ How to Healthy Up Your Hot Cocoa
Another satisfying and healthy way to get your chocolate fix at this time of year is homemade cocoa. I go heavy on the pure cocoa and light on the sugar, often using stevia instead. It’s thoroughly indulgent.
It’s also very grown-up and not at all like the prepackaged mixes you may be used to. You probably want less cocoa powder if you’re making it for younger palates.
I’d also steer away from the full-intensity version of this drink near bed or naptime, as the caffeine might affect kids unused to it. You can try using carob instead.
As with everything else on HealthyGreenSavvy, this recipe’s all about keeping things simple, and you can make a great cup of cocoa with only the first three ingredients. Plus, if you’re short on time or don’t feel like dirtying an extra pan, you can make it by the cup in the microwave. For more people, multiply the ingredients and cook over low heat on the stovetop.
Homemade Dark Hot Cocoa (per serving)
1 cup milk of choice (you can use any percent cow’s milk, soy, rice, or nut milk you like)
2 tablespoons unsweetened pure cocoa or cacao powder*
Sugar or stevia to taste (start with a teaspoon of sugar or a 1/16 tsp stevia and add more if you like it sweeter)
¼ tsp vanilla (optional)
Dash of salt (optional)
Stovetop: Combine all ingredients and stir to dissolve while heating.
Microwave: Add a splash of cold milk to the cocoa and stir till cocoa dissolves, then add rest of milk and stir. Cook on high about 1 minute till hot. Add sugar and other ingredients to taste.
*Note: Organic cocoa powder can be purchased in the bulk bins of most natural foods stores for about the same cost as conventional pre-packaged cocoa. Bonus points if you bring your own reusable container! If you’re sensitive to caffeine, you can use carob instead. See link below for where to buy.
You can also make your own maximize the health benefits of chocolate in your life!
Check out this recipe for homemade healthy chocolate from These Lovely Acres.
I also love these incredible no bake chocolate coconut cookies from Whole Natural Life. The chocolate flavor is out of this world!
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Photo credits: Christian Guthier, Steven Depolo, Texanerin