Chocolate is a remedy many of us reach for in times of stress, and a go-to-snack for boredom. But, what is the verdict on this beloved treat?
The cacao bean is the base for chocolate. In itself, the cacao bean is richly nutritious. It contains magnesium,”an energy mineral and vital electrolyte, which is associated with calming the body’s nervous system.” It’s also rich in flavonoids (antioxidants), which may help prevent clogged arteries. Cacao also contains high amounts of iron and calcium. However, by itself cacao has a bitter and chalky taste. But when you add sugar, milk, and butter; it turns into a delectable treat…
Chocolate is sweet and richly rewarding. But the add-ons make it less nutritious. The cacao is essentially diluted, and fat is added. The once powerhouse of nutrition, becomes a better tasting, less healthy alternative. But, there is good news for chocolate, because some of the nutrition remains. Chocolate has also been attributed to reducing stress hormones. And, it contains some caffeine, adding a stimulant factor. During the 18th century, it was considered an instant breakfast in parts of France. It was also once considered a great snack for soldiers in the night, and touted during World War II as a “Fighting Food.”
Where does that leave the health-o-meter on chocolate? It’s not necessarily a food you should feel guilty eating. In fact, some chocolate is actually considered nutritious in healthy servings, because of the flavonoids, and since it lessens stress hormones. Chocolate has also been said to lower blood pressure and reduce the chance of strokes and heart attacks (flavonoids can assist in vein and artery flexibility). However, because chocolate can be high in calories and fat, and the nutrients are diluted, it’s best to choose one that is higher in cacao (70% ratio). Dark chocolate tends to be the heart healthy choice. That doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to other varieties. However, if you’re looking for nutrition, dark chocolate is a better choice. Dark chocolate can also fill you up faster, and stave off the cravings for longer.
If you want to make the flavor last, you can try the recommended way to taste chocolate. Put a piece in your mouth and savor it. Let the flavors sink in and enjoy every layer. Then allow yourself to take a bite or two, let the remainder in the roof of your mouth until it melts away. This allows you to enjoy the flavor longer, and keeps your belly at bay.
Chocolate is a constant temptation for many, but it’s not all bad. It does tout a few health benefits, especially if you enjoy the dark variety. So sit back, and savor this feel-good food.