Since February is heart health month and Valentines day is this weekend, I thought it would be a good time to talk about chocolate and its health benefits. Like most women, I love a good piece of chocolate every now and then. Yes, partly for the health benefits but mostly for the taste. Choosing the right chocolate can be tricky as most are high in added sugar and heavily processed ingredients. With these additions to chocolate it diminishes the health benefits.
Chocolate comes from cacao plants, which are responsible for many of its health benefits. Cacao is rich in flavonoids, similar to the ones found in tea, red grapes, and red wine. Raw cacao is also a rich source of magnesium, another heart healthy nutrient to be including in your diet. In addition to magnesium, cacao is a good source of calcium, zinc, iron, copper, and potassium. While cacao contains saturated Stearic acid, current research suggests stearic acid does not have same negative effect on cholesterol as other saturated fats.
When consumed within moderation, 1-2 squares, a decadent slice for dark chocolate can benefit your heart and mood by:
- Reducing LDL cholesterol
- Reducing high blood pressure
- Increasing neurotransmitters serotonin, improving mood.
What to look for when you are buying chocolate:
There are so many choices to choose from when it comes to chocolate. Most of the chocolate found at the supermarket is made from refined sugars, milk and unwanted additives, reducing its health benefits.
- Look for at least 70 % cacao and is free of preservatives and artificial flavours.
- Read the ingredients; chocolate, chocolate liquor, cocoa, or cacoa should be the first ingredients. Also, high quality chocolate should contain only 4-5 ingredients.
- Choose a lower sugar content. Read the ingredient list.
- Limit chocolate that has been made with milk and milk products to avoid the loss of antioxidants.
- Whenever possible choose fair-trade chocolate. There is an increasing debate around how chocolate is produced mainly due to child labor used in cacao farms around the world. Choosing fair trade ensures farmers receive fair dollar, good working conditions and protects the environment.
We are celebrating Valentine’s day with a home made dinner, made by me, wish me luck. These mussels look amazing. I searched the web for dessert inspiration. Both of us are chocolate lovers, I am dying to try this raw brownie from A couple of Cooks. This recipe looks delicious and easy dark chocolate avocado mouse from Nutrition Stripped, as does this magic chocolate shell from Foodess.
Happy Heart Month!