Do you feel guilty about your chocolate cravings? Most of us don’t need a reason to eat chocolate every day. However, aside from it being totally delicious, cocoa also has a ton of health benefits! Read on and learn why snacking on chocolate every day should be guilt-free.
First things first, not all chocolate is the same! Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are much more beneficial to your health than milk chocolate. White chocolate offers the least nutrients of all while raw cacao is the most nutritionally dense. When snacking reach for products with dark chocolate, cocoa powder, or raw cacao.
Don’t feel bad about turning to chocolate in times of stress and anxiety! It turns out, cocoa is a great natural stress reliever. Researchers found over a 2-week period that individuals who ate 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate per day reduced their levels of the stress hormones cortisol and catecholamine. Chocolate also contains valeric acid, which works as a natural relaxant and tranquilizer.
Increase antioxidant levels.
Cocoa, especially raw cacao, is very high in antioxidant flavonoids called flavanols. These plant-based antioxidants are thought to help repair damage done to the body from environmental toxins. Additionally, flavanols have been shown to improve blood flow, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and decrease the risk of blood clots.
Stimulate your mind.
Looking for a mental boost? Chocolate can help with that! According to a 30-year study performed by the University of South Australia, eating chocolate at least once per week can enhance brain function, helping with memory, concentration and problem solving. The brain boosting powers of chocolate are likely associated with its level of flavanols — found in higher concentrations in dark chocolate, cocoa, and raw cacao.
Improve your heart’s health.
There have been many studies associated with the effects of chocolate on the heart. Researchers have found links between consuming chocolate regularly and improved cardiovascular health. This is no surprise as the flavanols in cocoa work to lower bad cholesterol, which in the long term could reduce the risk for cardiovascular events. One study revealed that consuming chocolate 5x weekly could reduce one’s risk by as much as 57%.
Fill up on fiber and minerals.
A 100 gram bar of chocolate containing 70-85% cocoa boasts 11 grams of soluble fiber, 98% of your daily-recommended manganese, 89% of your daily copper, 67% of your daily iron, and 58% of your daily magnesium intake. However it also contains up to 600 calories and varying amounts of sugar, so I wouldn’t recommend consuming this entire portion size daily.
Protect your skin.
It turns out that chocolate is also good for your skin! Two antioxidants in particular, phenols and catechins, possess the power to protect your skin from the sun. While chocolate is no replacement for sunscreen, studies have found that those who consumed dark chocolate or raw cacao rich in these flavanols saw significant skin protection from UV light.
Chocolate makes you smile, and not just because it is so tasty! Cocoa contains tryptophan — an amino acid that is used by the brain to produce serotonin. Serotonin then acts as a neurotransmitter to promote happiness. Chocolate also has phenylethylalanine (PEA). PEA is the same chemical your brain produces when you feel like you are falling in love, bringing on feelings of attraction, nervousness, and excitement.
As if you needed another reason to love cocoa, these seven will leave you feeling guilt-free about snacking chocolate on the regular!
Looking to sneak more chocolate into your day? Try one of the following delicious recipes — all vegan + gluten-free:
Sweet Potato Coconut Mini Candy Bars
Chocolate Cashew Cream Pie with Raspberry Sauce