Calling all chocolate lovers! Now, before you go getting too excited, let me say that not all dark chocolate is created equal, and there are a lot of important things to look for and to know about serving sizes.
Cocoa beans are not actually beans, they are seeds from the fruit of a cocoa tree. The cocoa beans are fermented, dried, roasted, and crushed into a thick paste which contains cocoa butter and cocoa solids.
Cocoa, the primary ingredient in dark chocolate, are naturally rich in antioxidants called flavonoids that fight against free radicals in the body. Milk chocolate however, contains almost as much if not more sugar than it does actual cocoa, making it a less than ideal option for any health benefits at all. The milk in milk chocolate binds to the antioxidants making them unavailable to the body.
Dark chocolate is the way to go! It is higher in antioxidants and much lower in sugar than the regular milk chocolate many of us are used to. It also contains theobromine, a substance that has similar effects to caffeine, but is not toxic, does not raise blood pressure, accumulate in the body, or cause addiction. Aside from antioxidants, dark chocolate also contains heart healthy fats!
The recommended serving for dark chocolate is 1 ounce per day. Look for dark chocolate with 60% or higher cocoa bean content or “cacao”. To get the most flavonoids, look for dark chocolate without alkali or that has not been “dutched.”
Studies have shown that dark chocolate has heart protecting properties if consumed in moderation. Stick to the 1 oz serving and be sure to savor it. Just that 1 serving can release endorphins and boos serotonin, making us feel good and boosting our mood. Try to stick to using cocoa powder in recipes, or plain dark chocolate bars, and don’t be fooled by the clever marketing out there. A lot of products are made with dark chocolate coating, but they are really just glorified candy bars! Read labels and check the sugar content to be sure.
Here are my two favorite dark chocolate recipes:
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