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I’m an avowed chocolate lover. I can’t help it—there’s just something about the smooth texture and richness of chocolate that I, like millions of other people, find intoxicating and hard to resist. And there’s no mistaking that dark chocolate, especially, is good for you. So how do you incorporate it into a healthy diet without overdoing it? What should you be looking for and what should you avoid? Let’s delve into all the ways you can finally stop calling chocolate an “indulgence” and reap all the magical wellness benefits it has to offer.
Cacao: What Makes Chocolate Magical
Chocolate is made from cacao beans, which are found within the pods of the Therobroma cacao tree. Simply put, cacao is a magical superfood. In its rawest form, it is a powerful source of, well, let me list them off:
- monounsaturated fats
Some of the many benefits of eating cacao include:
- Mood boosting
- Hormonal balancing
- Heart disease protection
- Inflammation reduction
- Improved circulation
- Weight loss
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol
- Improved digestion
It’s easy to understand why the ancient Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas used cacao as currency, medicine, ingredients, and even as part of their sacred rituals. Cacao held a sacred place in these civilizations…as it should in your life, too! When eaten raw or as dark chocolate, you can completely supercharge your health.
What You Should Try: Raw Cacao & Dark Chocolate
You can eat cacao raw to get maximum benefit, but you should also be looking for the darkest chocolate you can find. And don’t eat too much at one time! Even dark chocolate is still high in calories, so you have to watch how much you consume.
Be forewarned: dark chocolate is much more bitter than you might be used to, and cacao even more so. But when eaten the right way, it is incredibly beneficial for your health. Here are my recommended ways of eating “the dark stuff”:
- raw, naturally fermented cacao beans
- Add raw cacao powder to oatmeal, smoothies, and plain Greek yogurt
- Dark chocolate that is 70% or higher
Keep in mind that one square is enough to give you all the benefits you need! One of my favorite treats is almond milk (or substitute your favorite milk) mixed with cacao, cinnamon and honey. I use it for a brain boost in the morning! I also recommend these Go Raw Choco Chunk Coconut Crisps:
They’re a delicious, all-natural, chocolatey coconut treat that I snack on when I need a sweet treat. Plus, they give me an immediate mood boost!
What to Avoid: Milk Chocolate
Sorry to break it you, but milk chocolate is a pale imitator to cacao and dark chocolate. When you consider all the wonderful properties of cacao and then take a peek at the ingredient list on the back of a Hershey’s bar, you’ll immediately notice the differences. The milk chocolate that you know and love is typically made of:
- Chocolate liquor (fermented and roasted cacao nibs)
- Alkali (darkens it and removes the antioxidants)
- Milk fat
- Regular milk
- Soy lecithin
- Polyglycerol polyricinoleate (a thickener)
- Vanillin (vanilla bean extract)
Cacao is in there…somewhere. But all of its wonderful qualities have been compromised by added sugars, oils, chemicals and saturated fats that have no business being there in the first place. An easier way to remember: the lighter the chocolate, the worse it is for you!
So, if you want to truly enjoy chocolate and get all the amazing benefits that it was to offer, choose dark chocolate, or even better, raw cacao. Once you get used to it, you won’t miss milk chocolate in the slightest. What’s your favorite way to eat dark chocolate? Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to try them out!