Many believe that if a food is good for you it can’t be all that great tasting but chocolate is certainly the exception. Chocolate, considered by ancient cultures to be the food of the gods; is both tasty and healthful bringing with it many proven benefits. There are some caveats but don’t worry we have you covered; outlining what you need to know below. Be sure to get your daily dose today!
Cacao vs Cocoa
Have you heard people use the word cacao instead of cocoa? You may be wondering if it is fancy health food speak or if they are two separate products. The answer is they are similar products and there is a quality difference too. The distinct difference lies in the processing of the cacao beans:
- Cacao - Raw cacao powder is made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans. The process keeps the enzymes and antioxidant ingredients intact for maximum health benefits. This is the highest quality chocolate powder or paste you can get and it is sold in health food stores.
- Cocoa - Cocoa looks similar to cacao powder but it’s not. Cocoa powder is raw cacao that’s been roasted at high temperatures. Unfortunately roasting changes the structure of the cocoa bean, reducing the enzyme content and lowering the overall nutritional value. Depending on the manufacturer there can be additional process which reduces the beneficial ingredients even further.
Qualities of Healthy Chocolate
Like most things not all chocolate is created equal. So before you gift your next box of chocolate be sure to purchase high quality by following the guidelines below:
- Must be 70% cacao or higher – this should be clearly written on the package and if it isn’t you are likely looking at substandard chocolate
- Let the price be an indicator – high quality chocolate costs more; anywhere from $4.00 to $8.00 for a small bar.
- Look at the ingredients – cacao and cacao butter are the top ingredients in high quality chocolate and not sugar!
- Check the date the chocolate was made – the fresher the product the better tasting it will be.
- The taste and mouth feel - true quality chocolates will begin to melt in your mouth immediately and the texture should be creamy and smooth.
Benefits of High Quality Chocolate
Okay, so now you know which chocolate is the best to eat, now on to the benefits!
- Lowers insulin resistance – researchers have found the flavanols in cacao improved insulin sensitivity in those who had moderate to high consumption after 8 weeks.
- Lower blood pressure – small amounts of regular consumption was found to lower blood pressure by German researchers. However eating too much chocolate may lead to weight gain so portion control is key.
- Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease - The antioxidants found in cacao can significantly reduce the amount of inflammation that leads to cardio vascular disease. Portion again is key; the ideal daily consumption is 6.7grams.
- Boost your mood: Cacao is a top dietary source of tryptophan, an amino acid precursor to serotonin, the neurotransmitter of happiness. It also contains phenyl ethylamine, a compound called the “love drug” because it creates a feeling similar to being in love.
- A source of minerals: Cacao is a good source of magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper and manganese.