The Benefits of Organic Raw Chocolate
Good news for all of you that love chocolate, and those of you that are chocoholics (myself included!). Chocolate is a healthy super-food that is bursting with antioxidants.
However, to reap the health benefits, you have to choose the right chocolate: chocolate that is pure, 100% organically grown, and minimally processed. Real, raw chocolate, that is unprocessed cacao from fermented cacao beans, is full of vitamins and minerals that are high in antioxidants. Additionally, it benefits your heart, helps increase alertness and improves mood – all with very little caffeine. Exactly what makes raw chocolate so healthy as opposed to generic milk chocolate? In its natural state, chocolate is bursting with antioxidants to fight radicals, even more than fruit, vegetables, tea or wine! Raw chocolate contains a plethora of micro-nutrients that our body desperately needs, such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc, as well as B vitamins thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin, niacinamide (B3), panthotenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), vitamin C, vitamin E, and Omega 3 fatty acids, and is one of the richest food source of antioxidants that neutralize free radicals – rogue oxygen molecules that can accelerate aging and cause numerous health problems.
Dark Chocolate Lowers Blood Pressure
Chocolate aids in relaxation of blood vessels so your blood easily travels where it needs to.
According to Dr. Dirk Taubert, MD, Ph.D, and his colleagues at the University of Cologne, Germany, dark chocolate — not white chocolate — can lower high blood pressure. Taubert’s study involved six men and seven women aged 55-64 who had been diagnosed with mild high blood pressure — on average, systolic blood pressure (the top number) of 153 and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) of 84. Every day for two weeks, they ate a 100-gram candy bar and were asked to balance its 480 calories by not eating other foods similar in nutrients and calories. Half the patients got dark chocolate and half got white chocolate. Those who ate dark chocolate had a significant drop in blood pressure (by an average of 5 points for systolic and an average of 2 points for diastolic blood pressure). Those who ate white chocolate did not.
Another study compared how blood platelets responded to a flavonol-rich cocoa drink with 25 grams of semi-sweet chocolate pieces and a blood-thinning, 81-milligram aspirin dose. The research found similar reactions to the two from a group of 20- to 40-year-olds: both the drink and the aspirin prevented platelets from sticking together or clotting, which can impede blood flow. In conclusion, flavonol-rich cocoa and chocolate act similarly to low-dose aspirin in promoting healthy blood flow. Reducing the blood’s ability to clot also reduces the risk of stroke and heart attacks.
Antioxidants in Dark Chocolate
Cornell University food scientists found that cocoa has nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine and up to three times those found in green tea. Antioxidants are substances that inhibit oxidation or reactions promoted by oxygen and peroxides, and that include many held to protect the living body from the deleterious effects of free radicals. Examples include beta-carotene, vitamin C, and alpha-tocopherol. A 40-gram serving of milk chocolate contains about 400 milligrams of antioxidants, the same as a glass of red wine, according to research published by Joe A. Vinson of the University of Scranton, Pa. ( Ref.: Vinson JA, Proch J, Zubik L. Phenol antioxidant quantity and quality in foods: cocoa, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate J Agric Food Chem. 1999 Dec;47(12):4821-4.)
Dark chocolate has more than 13,000 ORAC units and milk chocolate has about 6,700, according to the Chocolate Manufacturers Association in McLean, Va. Unsweetened powdered cocoa starts out with almost twice as much antioxidants as dark chocolate, but when it’s diluted with water or milk and sugar to make hot chocolate, the flavonoid total per serving plummets to about half that in milk chocolate. (Ref.: Miraglio A, Chocolate’s Potential for Health Benefits Nutrition Notes May 2001.)
Serafini’s study: Serafini’s included seven healthy women and five healthy men aged 25-35. On different days they each ate 100 grams of dark chocolate by itself, 100 grams of dark chocolate with a small glass of whole milk, or 200 grams of milk chocolate. An hour later, those who ate dark chocolate alone had the most total antioxidants in their blood; and they had higher levels of epicatechin, a particularly healthy compound found in chocolate. The milk chocolate eaters had the lowest epicatechin levels of all.
Longevity: Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that those who eat chocolate and sweets up to three times each month live almost a year longer than those who eat too much or those who steer clear of junk altogether. (Ref. Lee IM, Paffenbarger R Life is sweet: candy consumption and longevity BMJ 1998; 317: 1683-1684.)
Important Information on Chocolate
- Dark chocolate is higher in flavonoids than milk chocolate. The way that cocoa powder and chocolate syrups are manufactured removes most flavonoids. Raw, organic cocoa and chocolate only offer the health benefits listed above.
- Choose rich, 100% organic chocolate and cocoa. Milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate and may therefore negate the potential health benefits that can be derived from eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate. Therefore, choose dark chocolate and enjoy it in moderation.
- Chocolate Recipe Substitution: When a recipe calls for chocolate, use dark chocolate (usually less sugar) or even better, raw cacao powder. To substitute 1 oz of unsweetened chocolate, use 3 Tbsp of dry cacao + 2 Tbsp of raw sugar or agave syrup + 1 Tbsp of unrefined coconut oil.