Many of us know that dark chocolate is of course “better” for us, but we aren’t really sure why. With Easter around the corner and our chocolate consumption set to sky rocket, I thought it might be a good idea to set the record straight. Here I explore 6 health benefits of dark chocolate, plus list 9 chocolate recipes to help you make the most of it!
- It reduces our appetite and stops us craving the sweet stuff – In one study, those who ate dark chocolate over milk chocolate felt more satisfied and less hungry. In addition, the desire to eat something sweet, fatty or savoury were all lower after consumption of dark chocolate. Study here.
- Dark chocolate may have anti-inflammatory properties. This study revealed that those who regularly consumed dark chocolate had significantly reduced serum C-Reactive Proteins and hence, this study suggests that dark chocolate may have anti-inflammatory effects. What we need to be mindful of is that regular consumption equated to 20g every 3 days. Study here.
- Heart health – High cocoa and chocolate consumption have been associated with a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) in a number of population studies.These benefits are mainly ascribed to diets rich in flavanols and procyanidins of which cocoa (found in dark chocolate is high in). What we need to be mindful of is that these diets are also paired with a high fruit and vegetable diet. Study here.
- It’s better than white chocolate – According to one study, dark, but not white, chocolate decreases blood pressure and improves insulin sensitivity in healthy persons. WIN! What we need to be aware of is that this study was done over the short term (7 days) and more research is required.
- Reduces blood pressure – The acute ingestion of both solid dark chocolate and liquid cocoa lowered blood pressure in overweight adults. This is believed to be attributed to the lower sugar content. The study also notes that the sugar-free preparations may enhance these effects. Study here.
- It may delay the onset of colon cancer – One study found that a diet including cacao and/or dark chocolate may reduce cell proliferation and some gene expression involving inflammation, which may explain the lower number of early preneoplastic lesions in the colon. This is believed to be a result of high polyphenol content found in cacao. Study here.
How do we know we’re getting the health benefits?
Let the truth be told that the health benefits of dark chocolate are found within the original cacao bean and these benefits tend to disperse as we move further and further down the line of production. As such, we need to be aware that various food processing techniques can reduce the level of health promoting nutrients before your block of chocolate even hits the shelves; it also means that not all brands of dark chocolate are created equal.
How do you know you’re getting enough of the good stuff? There isn’t really one sure fire way to tell, but one study revealed that those brands that tasted bitter and had a higher cacao content ranked higher in health benefits. It’s all a bit of a guessing game really, so I like to make my own. It’s easier than you think and tastes delicious. You can find the full recipe to “Make Your Own Chocolate” here.
Still not sold?
I completely understand that your own home made chocolate doesn’t come in the shiny Easter Egg packaging and hence, you’re less inclined to make the substitute this Easter, but why not replace you’re regular block of chocolate with some other delicious recipes using raw cacao powder? It means you’re more likely to get those benefits listed above and you’re completely in control of how much sugar is added to the mix:
- Creamy Chocolate Popsicles
- Chocolate Avocado Mousse
- Chocolate Buckwheat Crackles
- Chocolate Chia Pudding
- Chocolate Bliss Balls
- Mint Choc Chip Bliss Balls
- Chocolate Chia Bread
- Paleo Choc Chip Cookies
Do you make your own chocolate? Does it work? I would love to hear your stories below!