I have to admit I enjoy a little chocolate therapy almost every day! In fact, I love nothing more than spreading my Naked Chocolat Butter onto homemade gluten-free bread or sipping on a mug of creamy home-made Hot Chocolate made from warm macadamia nut milk – there’s just something so pleasurable in surrendering to the velvety and delicious taste of nature's ultimate comfort food. I love chocolate so much that I've even dedicated a whole chapter in my new cookbook Healthy Baking on this amazing superfood.
The good news is that you don’t need to feel guilty about eating chocolate. Research suggests that eating nature’s chocolate can actually be good for you, just make sure it's either cacao or a good quality bar of chocolate that is made from cocoa and cocoa butter. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the better for your health. My favourite contains 85% cocoa and it’s not overly sweet and made from wholefood ingredients. 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.
Here are the top reasons why chocolate can make you healthier:
1. Chocolate is good for your heart health
Cocoa is one of the richest sources of antioxidants in the world along side Green Tea. 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 red wine such as pinot noir!
2. Chocolate is 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. Chocolate boosts your mood + keeps you sharp
There’s a reason why chocolate is so addictive. 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. Chocolate 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.
6. It can lower blood pressure
Studies show that cocoa 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.
Studies published in the Cochrane Library found that flavanols in cocoa have been associated with blood pressure lowering properties due to their stimulation of nitric oxide dependent vasodilation. Green Tea and Black Tea also have a lowering affect on blood pressure as reported in the British Journal of Nutrition.
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.
Cocoa is rich in resveretrol. Resveretrol is also found in Green Tea and it helps to control inflammation and protects your brain as well as calm the nervous system.