Chocolate. The decadent devil. Most of us love it or hate it, and until recently I thought that those who felt the latter were the lucky ones in this world due to chocolate’s high number of calories and its association with things like diabetes, acne, and obesity. So why has my mind changed? Recently I discovered some interesting truths about chocolate. Truths that blew my very mind: is chocolate, in fact, good for me?
As it turns out, thanks to one of chocolate’s main ingredients, cocoa, it boasts a number of health benefits, including lowered cholesterol, reduced risk of heart problems, and prevention of cognitive decline. I know what all of you are thinking, because I thought it too… how? Well, it turns out that the main ingredient that I mentioned before, cocoa, is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet, even more so than blueberries and Acai berries.
Now, this all sounds fine and dandy, but let’s get to the bottom line. The fact is that most of the chocolate we consume (and by ‘we,’ I mean the United States) has a very low amount of cocoa in it, and an even lower amount of cacao in it, which has even more benefits. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s a list:
1) Kick start your mood with cacao. Cacao contains anandamide; known as the bliss molecule, it creates a feeling of euphoria and serves as a great mood improver.
2) Get happy in more ways than one with cacao. Found in cacao is another mood-enhancing compound called phenylethylamine. This compound triggers the release of endorphins as well as opium-like neurochemicals. These chemicals are most often released naturally when we fall in love (aw), but keep a good dose of cacao handy for when the flame begins to fade, because those same chemicals are known to improve libido (why’d you think chocolate is the main gift of choice on Valentine’s Day?).
3) Cheer up and even out with cacao on your side. Ingesting cacao is known to boost brain levels of serotonin, the feel good chemical.
4) It’s apparently good for your heart and your soul. Not only does cacao make you happy, thanks to its richness in complex antioxidants, it can reduce bad cholesterol and prevent hardening of the arteries.
5) Cacao can prevent blood clots.
6) Cacao keeps you young.
7) Cacao keeps you thin.
Can you tell I’m getting tired of writing this list? You can view all 21 benefits of cacao yourself here.
So what have we learned? That cocoa and cacao are both amazing for you, but that most of the chocolate we are consuming contains very little of either. For example, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars didn’t contain a trace of cacao until 2006, when the FDA said that a candy must contain at least 10% of cacao to be labeled as chocolate. You better believe that Hershey’s bar contains the minimum amount of cacao and is drowning in all of its other crap ingredients, including loads of sugar and fat.
So here’s the ugly truth (or the beautiful one depending on your perspective): real chocolate can be the delicious superfood you’ve been looking for your whole life if you’re willing to spend a little extra and adjust your tastebuds accordingly, but if you want to reap the benefits, you cannot continue eating the sugary, fatty, artificial junk found most commonly in convenience store aisles around the country.
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