Chocolate! Whether it’s the comfort of hot chocolate on a cold day, ooey gooey warm fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, or the decadence of chocolate dipped strawberries, what’s not to love? There seems to be a chocolate that fits every occasion, and, chocolate can be good for you.
Chocolate is made from tropical Theobroma cacao tree seeds, and its use by the Aztec peoples pre-dates European colonization. Ever since then, chocolate has circled the globe.
Studies have shown chocolate or rather the cocoa from the cacao tree, to be a virtual “super food.” It’s high in fiber, and is a quality source of many vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, copper, manganese and a good source of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.
But that’s not all. The many medically proven positive effects of cocoa powder include:
- Lowers cholesterol (LDL) levels, and increases healthy (HDL) cholesterol levels
- Improves blood flow to the brain, preventing memory decline (or possibly dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease) as we age, and lowers risk of stroke
- Reduces the risk of heart disease and lowers blood pressure
- Increases cell ability to accept and use insulin
- Can raise your energy level
Cocoa actually helps build capillaries and provides more energy at a cellular level in your muscles, including the most important one – the heart. A recent study in The British Medical Journal claimed that eating chocolate regularly could reduce the risk of heart disease by one-third, and 22 percent less likely to suffer a stroke.
One of the reasons that cocoa has so many amazing physical benefits is because of its ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) rating. ORAC is a measure of the antioxidant activity of foods. These antioxidants include polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins, among other amazing chemicals found in foods. Antioxidants are chemicals that provide protection against aging of cells in the body and premature death from exposure to “free radical” oxygen atoms. According to scientists, raw cocoa has one of the highest amounts of antioxidants of any food source measured in the world.
These antioxidants have been researched and found to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to the brain and heart. The flavanols can even have protective properties against sun-induced damage. They do so by improving blood flow to the skin. That increases the skin’s density and hydration, and therefore puts up a wall against potential UV ray damage.
But not all chocolates are created equal. Benefits are not found in white chocolate or milk chocolate. Many chocolate products have high amounts of fats and sugars, so moderate intake of these foods is recommended. Many chocolate products are also highly processed, eliminating many beneficial vitamins and minerals so that its taste far outweighs the benefits of the cocoa.
One tip when buying chocolate is to look for the dark chocolate products, especially those that contain a higher percentage of cocoa (70 percent or more). The more raw cocoa in the product and less processed the better.
Or you can even purchase raw cacao, which is unaltered and cold-pressed from the cacao bean, which retains many living enzymes in the product. Cocoa is roasted, and destroys many of these enzymes in the process.
Some concerns have been brought up about the amount of caffeine in cocoa. But according to studies, the caffeine you would get in a small serving of chocolate is nothing to be concerned about, compared to a large steaming cup of coffee.
But wait, there’s more. If you enjoy chocolate and good family fun, join Sun Life Family Health Center for our 2nd Annual “For the Love of Chocolate” Fun Run and Walk. All participants receive a chocolate-filled goodie bag, dri-fit t-shirt, finishers medal, and enjoy chocolate sweet spots placed throughout the course! Consider your chocolate cravings warned!
The fun run / walk event is planned for Saturday, March 4, 2017 at Copper Sky Recreation Complex (M.L.K. Jr. Blvd, Maricopa, AZ 85138). For more information, visit our event page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SunLifeFunRun/, or to register, sign up at www.sunliferun.com.