The word “chocolate” comes from the Aztec word “xocoatl,” which referred to a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans. Theobroma cacao, is the name of the tree where cacao beans are harvested. All chocolate comes from cacao beans which are the seeds of the Theobroma tree. The word cacao means “food of the gods.”
First domesticated by the Mayans over 2,000 years ago, cacao is one of the most nutritionally complex foods on earth, with over 300 compounds. Cacao has an oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) score of 95,500 per 100 grams, making it one of the best sources of antioxidants.
When I am craving a mid-afternoon or after dinner treat, my go to is a piece of dark chocolate. A former milk chocolate fan, now I prefer dark chocolate for many reasons:
Cacao has a rich history of use as medicine, and because the health benefits were so revered, it was even used as currency. Cacao is rich in minerals and antioxidants including potassium, magnesium, iron, polyphenols, flavanols, theobromine, and proanthocyanidins. Cacao offers a long list of health benefits including reducing heart attack and stroke, lowering blood pressure, boosting mood and brain function, protection against Alzheimers disease, lowering stress, relaxing muscles, boosting our skin’s internal SPF, and much more.
Switch to Dark Chocolate
Although eating milk chocolate will offer a small health benefit, the higher sugar content probably outweighs much of the benefits. Dark chocolate has significantly more nutrients, and less negatives (less sugar). People with a very strong sweet tooth will need time to adjust to dark chocolate, but it is possible to develop a taste, and even a preference for dark chocolate. First start by switching over to a better brand – Green & Blacks milk chocolate has 34% cacao, which is a higher cacao content than the average milk chocolate bar. Give a 60% cacao chocolate bar a try, it will be slightly more bitter than milk chocolate, but still will have a nice hint of sweetness. Once you have adjusted, then move on up to 70% cacao. Some people who like bitter tastes will even like 80% or higher cacao. Righteously Raw makes a number of delicious raw chocolate bars, their caramel dark raw chocolate bar has 90% raw cacao, and contains no refined sugar.
You can add cacao nibs to recipes for a chocolate nutty flavor, or you can even make dark chocolate at home, with just 5 ingredients – watch this video, or view the original recipe from Sunfood. Warning – once you make your own dark chocolate, it will be hard to buy it again!
Calorie Free Chocolate?
Not all chocolate contains calories – there are some calorie-free alternatives. This past Spring I was so excited to discover Tisano chocolate tea at Food Expo West in L.A. Made from the shells of the cacao beans, Tisano contains tannins, catechins, polyphenols, theobromine and other antioxidant agents. Tisano has a rich chocolate taste – and offers the mood-boosting benefits, but without the fat or calories of chocolate bars.
Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.
©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.
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