Celebrate the Heart - Chocolate

In February, we’re promoting the theme “Celebrate the Heart” all month long, with social media and blog posts that feature the heart from several perspectives, including romance, health, the arts, pop culture, volunteerism and more. Join us in social media and watch for our posts throughout the month!

Chocolate…one of life’s favorite treats! It smells good, it tastes good, and when it melts in our mouths, it makes us feel warm all over. One small piece of chocolate can put a smile on anyone’s face no matter how old they are. Why? Because it tastes sinfully sweet. But this guilty indulgence that we all crave may not be as bad as we think, all depending upon which type of chocolate you choose to eat.

Cocoa butter is extracted from the cacao bean and incorporated into many dark chocolate bars. It has very little polyunsaturated fat, which means it contains mostly monounsaturated and saturated fats. Research claims that dark chocolate in reasonable amounts has a number of physical and emotional health benefits. The more the amount of cocoa in the chocolate, the healthier it is. And, the darker the chocolate, the more phytochemicals and less sugar it contains. So, choosing small amounts of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate has numerous health benefits because dark chocolate contains flavonoids. Only 30 calories, which comes to about 1 or 2 small squares of dark chocolate is sufficient enough to provide many health benefits.

Surprisingly, cacao contains higher levels of polyphenol and antioxidants than acai, pomegranate, cranberry, and blueberry.

Cacao and dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure because they are high in the antioxidant flavanol which prevents plaque formation and protects damaged cells. Flavanol also help deactivate free radicals in the blood which aids in keeping cholesterol levels at bay.

Cacao is great for our skin because cacao contains the antioxidants polyphenol and flavanol. Plus cacao is full of vitamins A, B, and E which help give our skin glow. Flavanol also helps protect the skin from damaging UV Rays.

As a mood booster, cacao filled dark chocolate stimulates the production of endorphins in the body, which give a feel good transmission to our brain which in turn elevates our mood and makes us feel happy.

Valeric acid in dark chocolate acts as a relaxant which is great in reducing our stress level. The lower sugar content in cacao and dark chocolate also helps play a part in calming our stress and reduce pain.

To help relieve those annoying PMS symptoms, eat some dark chocolate. The chocolate releases endorphins that calm us, which reduces anxiety. The high magnesium content will also help with the “blues” and reduce the water retention that sometimes comes along with the “monthly cycle.” Raw cacao has very high antioxidant effects which leads to a variety of other healing benefits, such as improving sugar metabolism, supporting weight loss, improving cognitive function, reducing colon and colorectal cancer, and prevents clotting that can lead to a stroke or heart attack.

But the best benefit of all is that cacao elevates our mood and our spirit because it raises our levels of phenylethylamine, serotonin, anadamide, and endorphins. And we all know, when our mood is lifted and we feel happy, life is easier to deal with!

The best way to add a healthy source of cacao in your diet is to buy organic, dark chocolate that contains 70-80% cacao but doesn’t include dairy, soy or unrefined sugar. The higher the cacao content, the better it is for your health. For all those bakers and smoothie drinkers out there, try adding raw cacao to your recipes. Just one ounce of pure, unprocessed, raw cacao can provide a variety of health benefits.

So go on! Indulge, crave and reap the rewards of that tiny little piece of love we call chocolate!