When you think of chocolate, the first thing that comes to mind may be all that leftover Halloween candy you have (unless you ate it all already 😉). But when talking about the benefits of chocolate, what we really mean is chocolate in its pure forms: cocoa and cacao. Not to be confused with the most commonly consumed milk chocolate, cocoa and cacao go through less processing.
Cocoa Vs. Cacao
Both cocoa and cacao come from the cacao plant. Cacao is essentially raw, unfiltered chocolate and the beans are cold-pressed to make cacao powder. It doesn’t have the same sweet taste of those mini chocolate bars calling you from the candy bowl. It’s actually rather bitter and can be an acquired taste. But there are a lot of reasons to love chocolate in its naked state. Not to mention, there is so much you can do with chocolate in your cooking!
Cocoa is made by roasting the cacao beans. It’s slightly less bitter than cacao powder, but the difference may be imperceptible. The heat from this process does destroy some of the nutrients though, which is why cacao is superior when it comes to getting the most health benefits from your chocolate.
If you’re a fellow chocolate lover, read on to learn about all the wonderful ways this tasty treat can support you on your journey to vibrant health.
Dark Chocolate Promotes Healthy Cholesterol Levels
Dark chocolate was found to help lower low-density LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol levels (the good kind). Clinical trials have shown that participants who added dark chocolate to their diets for a range between 2-12 weeks reduced their LDL and total cholesterol levels.
Dark Chocolate Can Protect You From Free Radicals
Free radicals are compounds that can cause inflammation, premature aging, and disease. You can protect yourself from these free radicals by consuming foods high in antioxidants, polyphenols, and flavonoids, like dark chocolate. As a matter of fact, cocoa has even more of these helpful compounds than red wine or tea!
Dark Chocolate Makes Your Heart Happy
Healthy circulation is important for heart health and as we age, we may be more prone to sluggish circulation. One study that compared the effects of dark chocolate and white chocolate found that the dark chocolate significantly improved circulation in participants while the white chocolate had no effect.
Healthy cholesterol, protection from free radicals, and improved circulation are just a few of the benefits of consuming dark chocolate. But by now, you’re probably ready to get your cacao on! The next step is to find chocolate that will give you the maximum health boost.
Choosing the Best Chocolate for Your Best Health
To reap the most health benefits while getting your chocolate fix, choose high-quality dark chocolate that is at least 70% cacao and made with premium ingredients. Organic chocolate tends to be less processed than conventional chocolate so it’s a good idea to stick to organic when possible. Hu Kitchen has a dark chocolate bar made with only 3 ingredients: organic cacao, organic coconut sugar, and organic fair-trade cocoa butter. You can’t get cleaner than that! And while most dark chocolate is vegan, you should still check the label. With Hu Kitchen, you know you’re getting the best quality vegan paleo chocolate. Short ingredient lists ensure that you’re not getting fillers or any other unnecessary stuff.
Quality Over Quantity!
While quality dark chocolate has amazing health benefits, it is wise to consume it in moderation. That’s a good rule of thumb for many things in life though. Choose quality over quantity — select high-quality dark chocolate and savor it in small amounts. Also, have some fun with it and find different ways to infuse this antioxidant-rich treat into your diet.