February is traditionally known as the month of love and chocolate (or is it the love of chocolate?). The new year is barely underway before we become inundated with commercials and tv shows on buying, baking with, giving and eating chocolate. Our guilt in overindulging is conveniently assuaged with “research findings” extolling the health benefits of chocolate. When we hear that chocolate is actually good for us, the red light turns green and eating chocolate seems as logical and healthy as eating broccoli!

Here’s the truth: chocolate is good for you.

Here’s the “but”: but only when it is unprocessed and without the disastrous additions of sugar, artificial sweeteners, milk and other unhealthy ingredients.

The benefits of chocolate lie in the cacao bean. According to David Wolfe, author of Naked Chocolate and Superfoods, ”The cacao has always been and will always be Nature’s number-one weight loss and high-energy food. Cacao beans are probably the best-kept secret in the entire history of food.” In fact, he says, “Cacao beans were so revered by the Mayans and Aztecs that they used them instead of gold as money!”

According to Wolfe, cacao is the best natural food source of:

  • Antioxidants
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Chromium
  • Manganese
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin C
  • Omega-6 fatty acids
  • Tryptophan
  • Serotonin
  • Fiber
  • Anandamide (the endorphin, also known as the “bliss chemical” which the body naturally produces after exercise). It is found in only one plant: cacao.

And no, it is not a good source of caffeine. But it is a rich source of theobromine, which is chemically related to caffeine without being a nervous system stimulant. Theobromine is actually good for your heart because it dilates the cardiovascular system.

In addition, recent research by Dr. Gabriel Cousens found that cacao has less of an effect on blood sugar than nearly any other food.

With these facts in mind, “real” chocolate can and should be consumed year-round. The healthy ways to enjoy cacao are numerous: adding cacao beans to smoothies, sprinkling cacao “nibs” onto desserts. adding it to coffee. Buy chocolate bars with at least 70% cacao (try to get organic bars, with minimal sugar). You can also eat raw cacao beans by themselves.

Enjoy real chocolate, but in moderation. I enjoy a few small squares of dark 85% cacao almost every day as a mid-morning or afternoon snack. Since it has no dairy and very little sugar I find it to be “self-limiting”. In other words, I feel satisfied with just a few bites. Contrast this to the cravings-inducing qualities of milk chocolate and you can enjoy dark chocolate guilt-free!

Wishing you wellness and happiness,
New Health Visions