Chocolate is a food most of us love! However, it is so often associated with guilt – it’ll make me fat, I’ll have pimples next week, I’ll develop diabetes, it’s not good for me… and yet, how do I stop loving putting the soft brown squares into my mouth?! Is chocolate good for your skin?
Research across the world is showing all the reasons why we should be including some chocolate in our daily diets. Yes, it can be good for us!! But (there is always a “but” with the things we love), we need to choose our chocolate carefully.
Chocolate comes in different formats or % of cocoa solids, fats and sugars. A good chocolate should sit in your mouth and melt, giving a distinctive and pleasurable smooth texture and flavour. It should not feel waxy. Generally, it is considered that the higher the % of cocoa solids, the better the quality. However, other factors also come into play.
Elements Affecting the Health Factor of Chocolate
The area the cocoa beans come from
Many of the finest, yummiest chocolates always source their beans from the same locations in the world.
The type of chocolate
Raw cacao, made by cold-pressing unroasted cacao beans, is the healthiest type of chocolate, as the process retains the living enzymes in the cocoa. Even though cocoa powder looks the same as raw cacao, it is most definitely not the same. Cocoa powder is raw cacao that has been roasted at high temperatures, which unfortunately changes the molecular structure of the cocoa bean. This reduces the enzyme content and lowers the overall nutritional value. Choose organic raw cacao where possible!
The ingredients and any additives
For economic reasons, some manufacturers replace cocoa butter with cheaper and nasty fats. Good quality chocolate should have only 6 or so ingredients and be 70% or more cocoa solids. However, milk chocolate is still termed ‘chocolate’ with only around 30% cocoa solids and dark chocolate can be termed such with only 45% cocoa solids (ensure it says more than just “cocoa”, which doesn’t count). So you can see there is quite a vast difference. Choosing the higher % of cocoa solids is the healthier choice. However, be aware of the level of sugar and fats in your choice as, again, manufacturers add more or less to create a taste they think you will like. It is these fats and sugars that give chocolate the reputation of a “naughty food”, affecting your general health and, consequently, your skin.
The benefits of chocolate, needless to say, relate to good quality
Small amounts (even daily) of 70% plus dark chocolate or organic raw cacao are what will give you the benefits. Don’t use the facts below to go berserk this Easter on what is possibly cheap and nasty milk chocolate – you’ll be doing your body, your mind and your skin a total disservice!!
The Benefits of Dark Chocolate for Your Health & Skin
Here is a list of the benefits of eating a little dark chocolate every day, including some fascinating and surprising facts! Just keep in mind that it is the sugars in chocolate and the nasty fats that hurt your skin (and your health) and need to be avoided. Easter eggs tend to be full of these, which is why most of us need a good detox in the weeks after Easter. Check out our healthy Easter recipes if you’d like to indulge in a little chocolate (Easter eggs included!) without the nastiness!
Benefits for Your Skin
- As chocolate is anti-inflammatory, we can say it will benefit your skin. Not directly, but if your body is less inflamed, you will have better general health and your skin will be clearer.
- The flavonoids (a type of antioxidant) in dark chocolate offer some protection from UV damage
- The relaxing effects of enjoying a smooth, melt-in-the-mouth soft (dark) chocolate will help you relax, sleep better and improve your mood. You’ll be happier and feel less stressed, which always helps your skin.
Benefits for Your Heart and Circulation
- It is anti-inflammatory and has a high mineral content, including potassium, zinc and selenium. Plus, with almost 70% of iron RDA (in a 100gm bar), it helps your general health.
- Restores flexibility to arteries and prevents blood cells from sticking to blood vessel walls
- Lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol and raises “good” cholesterol
- Blood pressure is lowered
- The risk of stroke can be lowered – a 2011 Swedish study found that women who ate more than 45 grams of chocolate a week had a 20% lower risk of stroke than women who treated themselves to fewer than 9 grams of the sweet stuff. Finnish researchers have found similar results in men who ate chocolate.
Benefits for Your General Health
- Flavanols found in cocoa are thought to reduce memory-loss in older people
- The anti-inflammatory qualities can help decrease brain inflammation in concussion
- May improve retinol function (vision)
- Stops coughing – an ingredient in chocolate called theobromine appears to reduce activity of the vagus nerve, the part of the brain that triggers hard-to-shake coughs
Benefits for Your Weight
- Chocolate is high in fibre and gives satiety, keeping you feeling full – eating a small amount before a meal triggers satiety hormones letting you know you are full, so you eat less. Possibly, finishing a meal with some chocolate could stop snacking between meals.
- May reduce cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods. Try having a square of dark chocolate next time you think you “need” a high fat/sugar fix at 3pm to get you through to dinner.
- Improves insulin sensitivity – new research is indicating that dark chocolate (the best quality, I guess) in small amounts may prevent diabetes
Benefits for Your Mood and Mental Health
- It de-stresses and is a mood-enhancer. Studies show pregnant chocolate-eaters have babies who smile more often than non-chocolate-eaters
- Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is the same chemical that your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release feel-good endorphins.
- That boost of blood-flow to the brain created by cocoa’s flavanols appears to make people feel more awake and alert.
- Chocolate is good for the soul! It makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside – all soft and melty. That’s why it is a comfort food. So, it’s also nice to take a minute and ponder the farmers who grow the cocoa beans with love and attention, then the processes, who with loving hands and minds form the beans into the product the chocolatiers use to create the soft brown squares we love to eat.
If we appreciate what we have and where it has come from, maybe we’ll choose to eat the best of the best, which will really help our hearts, our minds, our bodies and our skin!
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