Integrative Health – March 2023
Chocolate – A Super Food?
Spring is around the corner, and so is chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate!
Dark chocolate is a feel-good superfood. It tastes good, contains nutritional qualities, and can literally make you happy. But not all chocolate is a superfood.
In its natural form, chocolate is a plant-based food; cacao seeds come from the fruit of the Theobroma tree (food of the Gods), which goes through an extensive fermentation process. The seeds are then dried in the sun or wood-fired ovens. Cacao seeds are graded and examined for mold, insect damage, and flatness.
Quality dark chocolate contains 50%-100% cacao solids with high concentrations of polyphenolic compounds, such as flavanols. Flavanols can act as a potent antioxidant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory. Analysis of antioxidant fruit placed dark chocolate second to pomegranates and ahead of blueberries, acai, and cranberries. Flavanols are also very heart-healthy, supporting nitric oxide production which relaxes blood vessels.
Cacao beans are also high in fiber, potassium, iron, copper, selenium, phosphorus, and zinc. Most important, dark chocolate can protect cells from oxidative damage that can lead to disease.
Additionally, dark chocolate does have a relationship with cholesterol.It contains stearic acid, which is neutral; heart-healthy oleic acid; and palmitic acid, which can raise cholesterol levels but is outnumbered by the other two acids.
Holidays, special occasions, and “just because” chocolate consumption raise the question about sugar and calories; however, there are healthy options.
Flavanols in the beans are responsible for that initial bitter taste in dark chocolate, which is why sugar is added.
Walk into any store, and there is so much to choose from. Most will gravitate to the sweetness of milk chocolate and not consider the quality of the ingredients. Holiday specials and everyday mainstream chocolate tend to be milk chocolate – more milk and sugar.
Much chocolate on the market needs to be more nutritious. For example, a seven-piece serving of Hershey’s Kisses has 160 calories, 18 g of total sugars, and 19g of total carbs. Below are the contents of another popular brand where “chocolate” is the third ingredient:
Healthy chocolate is available almost everywhere you find the other stuff.
It’s true; healthy dark chocolate does have calories. Dark chocolate at 70% cacao most likely contains about 30% sugar and is around 110 calories per .7 ounces. The sugar content goes down as the percentage of cacao goes up.
Healthy dark chocolate also has caffeine, but interestingly, it’s a small amount compared to a cup of coffee. You’d have to eat 3.5 ounces of 70-80% dark chocolate (80 milligrams of caffeine) to get the same buzz from a cup of coffee (95 milligrams of caffeine)
It’s also true that chocolate can make you happy. Dark chocolate contains chemicals like tryptophan which the brain uses to produce serotonin, the neurotransmitter, and hormone responsible for feelings of joy. Dopamine can also increase with the experience of giving, receiving, or eating chocolate and not so much what is in the chocolate!
When buying chocolate, take a few minutes to:
- Choose chocolate with at least 50% cacao solids and 70% for the super healthy option.
- Check the ingredients on the label or online and ensure the chocolate is the first ingredient. Avoid chocolate containing vegetable oil, butter oil, artificial sweeteners, or milk substitutes as much as possible. The fewer ingredients, the better.
- Give it a try! High-quality chocolate should have a silky-smooth texture, distinct flavor, and great aroma.
|Here is my choice for a chocolate indulgence like no other!A farmer’s market find! Locally made in Washington DC, this master and award winner chocolatier Chef Ismael Neggaz will take you on a healthy chocolate journey with something for everyone!
If you have diabetes and want to enjoy chocolate, there’s a 100% cacao option. Enjoy it out of the package; it will have a slightly bitter taste at the onset, then completely mellow out. Grate it into smoothies, melt it for puddings, or bake with it.
If you like spices, he offers a wide variety, including mint, chili, cardamom, nutmeg, sea salt, and coffee. He has the first dark/milk chocolate I’ve ever tasted! Organic, no soy, gluten, nuts, or artificial flavors; check it out at www.chocotenango.com.
To your health,
Doctor of Natural Medicine and Holistic Cancer Consultant
Disclaimer: The information in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. As a Board-Certified Doctor of Natural Medicine, I do not diagnose or treat disease, an area well attended by licensed physicians. Instead, I identify healing opportunities within the body. Once identified, function and health may be restored by correcting the underlying causes and conditions of health challenges. Rebalancing the body’s systems can be a proven stabilizer adjunctive to medical protocols for serious medical conditions. Everyone is an individual, and not all recommendations may be appropriate. Exercising due diligence and consulting your physician before engaging in alternative concepts or protocols is recommended.
Disclosure: There are no affiliate relationships in this blog.