By Brittany Shutts
Maybe the Mayans and Aztecs were onto something when they started making drinks from this delicious bean. Chocolate should not be relegated to the level of gumballs and gummy bears. This sweet treat contains antioxidants, nutrients, and serotonin-increasing carbohydrates. It is conducive to both health and happiness, and should be eaten without guilt.
Chocolate is good for your heart. To the alarm of their patients, doctors in Australia tried prescribing a bar of dark chocolate a day to treat hypertension. Some patients complained that it was too hard to eat that much chocolate in one day, while others could not accept it as a treatment. There seems to be a method to their madness. A study at Harvard Medical School observed a 32% lower risk in heart failure in women who ate one to two servings a day of quality dark chocolate a day.
A whole bar may not even be necessary to get the benefits of chocolate. A study in Germany found that people who ate approximately one square of chocolate a day had a 39% lower risk of heart attack or stroke. Chocolate not only prevents strokes, but provides protection against damage after a stroke has occurred. Phytonutrients called flavonoids that are found in chocolate have positive effects on high blood pressure and inflammation. Just one Hershey Kiss-sized morsel is enough to lower blood pressure.
Beef is not the number one greatest source of iron. Dark chocolate contains more iron per ounce than beef sirloin. Just one ounce of dark chocolate will provide you with 19% of your RDA of iron, while beef pales in comparison with a mere 3 percent. Chocolate binging should ideally not provide you with your daily dose of iron, as it also contains large amounts of saturated fat. Everything in moderation, even with chocolate.
You know the spring in your step that follows a tasty square of chocolate? It’s not in your imagination. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine – a mood elevator – and carbohydrates that increase levels of serotonin.
According to a study called “Metabolic Effects of Dark Chocolate on Energy, Gut Microbiota, and Stress-Related Metabolism in Free-Living Subjects,” eating dark chocolate can improve your mood and correct imbalances caused by stress. After two weeks, an ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day reduced the levels of stress hormones in participants who consider themselves to be highly stressed. You can read the article here.
For all of the nutritional benefits of chocolate, it’s best to eat it in its most unadulterated form. Choose an organic chocolate with at least 70% cocoa and little added sugar. Most chocolates on the market don’t make the cut.
Green and Black's is a brand of organic chocolate with a rich and complex flavor. Its Fair Trade certification means that the farmers are provided with a steady income, healthcare, and education for their children. The farmers learn sustainable farming techniques and receive extra funds for growing organic produce. With Fair Trade chocolate, you can be certain that the cacao was not produced on plantations that use slave labor and other unethical practices.
Taza Chocolate is a socially-responsible brand of Mexican-style chocolate from the Northeast. Taza is the only company in the US that makes stone-ground organic chocolate. The chocolate bars have a unique granular texture from the grinding technique. Their Chocolate Mexicano Mix is also great for making hot chocolate. The company uses sustainably-grown cacao and fairly pays their farmers.
If you like your chocolate combined with something more, Theo’s Fantasy Flavors have unique additions, such as French bread and chai tea. Theo is organic, Fair Trade, and vegan-friendly. The company also uses sustainable energy sources and packaging methods. A great place to start with Theo chocolates is the Fig, Fennel, and Almond bar with 70% dark chocolate. You will know it by the whimsical rendering of squirrels on its wrapper.
Whatever your preference in chocolate, there are a number of different brands to choose from that are not only good to their staff and good to the environment, but they are also good for you. That's a win-win.