Whether given as a gift, used in delicious desserts or eaten just “because”, there is no doubt that chocolate is one our most popular indulgences. Discovered by ancient tribes in the rainforests of Central America hundreds of years ago, the ingredients of the cacao bean (from the Theobroma cacao tree) produce this delicious food that we call chocolate or cocoa.
Today, chocolate is found in many sweets and candy bars that are high in fat and sugar; these are the guilty indulgences. The health benefits of chocolate are only found in products with a high cacao content that are low in sugar and fat. The darker the chocolate, the higher the cacao content and the nutrients that can positively affect your health.
Cocoa has been the subject of research for years and studies show that dark chocolate can improve health by lowering risk of heart disease. The stimulant properties of the theobromine and caffeine may improve blood flow and lower blood pressure and improve cognitive function. Cocoa is considered to be a rich source of antioxidants such as procyanidins and flavonoids, which may impart antiaging properties. It also contains beneficial nutrients such as iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium. There may be other health benefits of consuming cacao that continuing research will confirm.
Eating chocolate can be health promoting and delicious when we choose products with a high cacao content (70% and above) and eat it in moderate amounts of a couple of squares a day. So, why not celebrate a guilt-free Easter this year and enjoy some dark chocolate.