Chocolate has been getting a bad rap. Although it’s often combined with other ingredients that result in calorie-laden and not particularly heart-healthy treats, the actual cocoa bean from which chocolate is derived has some significant health benefits.
History of Chocolate
Based on research from the Cocoa Symposium, sponsored by the University of California and the National Institutes of Health, chocolate was found to offer many disease-fighting properties in its pure form. Chocolate contains flavonoids, antioxidants shared by green tea and garlic, and thought to protect both heart and blood vessels. In addition, chocolate is also a good source of folic acid, copper, and magnesium and boosts serotonin, the brain chemical that enhances mood.
Historically, chocolate was highly regarded for its nutritional properties as well. Chocolate originated in the rainforests of Latin America and was known for its medicinal properties. In 17th century Europe, chocolate was touted as a remedy for such ailments as anemia, tuberculosis, and gout.
Even though there are real nutritional benefits to chocolate, this doesn’t mean that chocolate should join fruits and vegetables in your five a day plan. Chocolate is still higher in fat and calories than many other antioxidant-rich foods. It’s also usually combined with sugar, even though its moderate glycemic index helps provide a steady source of energy. But eaten in moderation, chocolate can satisfy your cravings for sweets and provide a health boost at the same time.
Pure cocoa powder has the highest concentration of antioxidant power, followed by dark chocolate and then milk chocolate. Cocoa powder also has the least fat—only half a gram with no saturated fat. Bar chocolate, including chocolate morsels and chips, is higher in fat and also contains sugar. Two tablespoons of chocolate chips contain approximately 4 grams of fat, including 2.5 of saturated fat.
Best Sources for Healthy Chocolate
Whether you’re looking for a healthy snack or an ingredient for a favorite recipe, such as Dorit’s chocolate banana pudding in Celebrating Our Raw Nature, here are several great chocolate options:
- Endangered Species Chocolate. This premium chocolate maker offers a large selection of chocolate bars, bites, and spreads that are gluten-free, non-GMO, and made with fair trade ingredients. Many options are also vegan. Choices include dark chocolate with pumpkin spice and almonds; dark chocolate with cinnamon, cayenne, and cherries; and a hazelnut cocoa spread. Endangered Species donates 10 percent of net profits to support conservation organizations.
- Righteously Raw. All Righteously Raw chocolates are certified organic and non-GMO. They also gluten-free, vegan, and raw, with tempering under 118 degrees. They offer full-sized bars (with flavors such as goji, caramel, and maca), mini bites, and individually-wrapped mouthfuls. These chocolates are sweetened with agave nectar, which also makes them low glycemic.
- RAU. Would you rather drink your chocolate? If so, RAU makes a raw organic cacao superfood drink that’s free of dairy and soy. Flavors include mint, mocha, and coconut as well as the original flavor that’s sugar-free.