Easter is just around the corner and while it’s synonymous with chocolate, that doesn’t mean missing out on a bit of chocolate therapy! In fact, I love nothing more than spreading my Naked Chocolat Butter onto fresh made Hot Cross Buns or sipping on a mug of creamy home-made Hot Chocolate made from full cream milk - there’s just something so pleasurable in surrendering to some velvety indulgence.
The good news is that you don’t need to feel guilty – you could actually be doing yourself a favour. Research suggests that eating nature’s chocolate can be good for you. That’s because cocoa is packed with antioxidants called polyphenols, which is also found in red wine, and help to prevent the oxidation of harmful cholesterol.
A typical good quality bar of chocolate is made from cocoa butter, or cocoa liquor cocoa and sugar. The higher the percentage of cocoa the better for your health. My favourite contains 85% cocoa and it's not overly sweet, which is how I like it. When buying chocolate - use the best you can get and make sure they are not filled with emulsifiers, hydrogenated vegetable oils and cheap fillers. The less ingredients the better.
When I'm feeling creative, I normally make my own chocolate from scratch using equal amounts of cocoa butter or coconut oil mixed with Naked Chocolat. I sweeten if needed and then for a creamy result, I often whisk through a little cashew butter. Garnish with freeze dried raspberries and organic rose petals and magic happens.
Here are the top reasons why chocolate can make you healthier:
1. It can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease
Cocoa is one of the richest sources of antioxidants in the world. According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the high flavenoid content of cocoa has been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease and stroke.
To maximise the antioxidant benefit and the pleasure of eating chocolate, I like to enjoy it with a glass of full-bodied red wine such as merlot!
2. It’s full of essential minerals
Many of us are so focused on our macronutrients that we often forget about our intake of essential minerals, which can lead to deficiencies.
Cocoa contains high amounts of essential minerals including magnesium, iron, copper, manganese and riboflavin that assist with improving overall health. For instance, magnesium helps with relaxing blood vessels, improving circulation and blood flow.
Iron helps with the transportation of oxygen around the body. Copper works with iron to help the body form red blood cells. Manganese helps with bone production and keeping skin healthy and riboflavin plays a significant role in the production of energy. Overall, these minerals help to ensure all your bodily processes are working smoothly.
3. It boosts your mood + keeps you sharp
There’s a reason why chocolate is so additive. Cocoa contains theobromine, a substance that increases “feel-good” chemicals called endorphins, providing a pleasurable feeling similar to the natural high after exercise. It’s also a natural stimulant that can help keep you sharp. According to research from Northern Arizona University, cocoa can help boost attention span and mental alertness as it promotes increased blood flow to the brain. For a great chocolate hit, as well as your dose of heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats.
I like to make my Healthy Chocolate Mousse made from blended ripe avocado and my Naked Chocolat that is scented with pure Madagascan vanilla and a pinch of sea salt. This mousse is absolutely magical – the texture is heavenly!
4. It can help prevent type 2 diabetes
Cocoa is also rich in polyphenols, an antioxidant that has been linked to improved insulin sensitivity and glucose regulation. According to The Journal of Nutrition, foods high in polyphenols can play a protective role against type 2 diabetes. This is because polyphenols have been shown to have an anti-diabetic effect by inhibiting glucose absorption in the gut or of its uptake in tissues.
5. It can enhance sports performance
Cocoa is rich in magnesium and antioxidants that assist with muscle repair and recovery. So if you’re looking for the perfect recovery drink, look no further than my much-loved chocolate milk that’s bursting with antioxidants and essential minerals.
Naked Chocolat is also rich cacao, carob, maca, cinnamon and pure vanilla bean – ingredients that help to provide sustained energy and to support the endocrine and immune systems.
Need a bit of muscle magic? Again, cocoa is high in magnesium that helps with bone mineralisation, muscle contraction and calms sensitivity to pain, so it's great for improved muscle and nerve function.
6. It can lower blood pressure
Studies show that dark chocolate consumption is correlated to lower blood pressure readings. The flavonoids in cocoa can help to increase nitric oxide production, which helps open up the blood vessels and allows more oxygen flow as well as lower blood pressure.
7. Chocolate is good for stress
Cocoa is rich in a compound called resveratrol, the same that's found in red wine. Resveretrol helps to control inflammation and protects your brain as well as calm the nervous system.
Research also suggests that resveratrol can support mental health by increasing the brain’s production of endorphins, also known as natural opiates, and serotonin, a mood-altering chemical targeted by antidepressants.