Chocolate. I love it, need it, can’t be without it! You hear that all the time, right?
But since it’s easy to get lost in its rich flavour, wouldn’t you like to know how to eat chocolate guilt-free? Or better than that. How about enjoying chocolate not only for its taste but also for the goodness it brings to your health?
Chocolate has the power to make you feel guilty or it can nourish your body while warming up your heart. It’s like Yin and Yang, positive and negative combined in perfect balance. Due to its chemical composition, it gets you hooked so you keep going back for more. And as a reward it offers you better blood circulation, stronger immunity and a smile from ear to ear.
Let’s see what’s behind the chocolatey power and how to squeeze every healthy drop out.
Gift from the Gods
The main ingredient in chocolate is cocoa. At least it should be because that’s what makes chocolate, the real, true, no pretence delicatessen.
Cocoa contains magnesium, manganese, iron, some zinc, potassium and calcium. It’s rich in polyphenols which help your blood vessels dilate so your blood flows smoothly to your legs, heart and to your brain. Cocoa is anti-inflammatory and when you eat it regularly it has the power to decrease blood pressure, (study), prevents blood from clotting and even increases HDL, as shown in this study.
Even though you may see chocolate as the enemy to your curves, cocoa itself is your friend when it comes to keeping your weight in check. It improves insulin sensitivity (study) so your blood sugar stays steady and you avoid cravings. What may be even more surprising, is that when you enjoy cocoa regularly, your BMI is lower than when you skip it all together. (study)
The fatal attraction
Considering these benefits as well as when you taste some chocolate, it’s easy to fall in love with this treat. But honestly, chocolate can get you hooked for many reasons.
It’s not only the addictive effect of sugar hijacking the reward centre in your brain. It’s also the chemical make up of the cocoa powder which makes it so hard to stay in control.
Cocoa naturally contains caffeine, theobromine (similar to caffeine) and phenyl ethylamine (amphetamine-like chemical). When you combine the effect of sugar and these stimulants, it’s no wonder you often find yourself stuck between portion control efforts and a need to have a cocoa fix.
The irresistible combo
As if it wasn’t enough that cocoa rules our brain, there is also a secret formula, which maximises the addictive effect. When a chocolate bar is made of 50% sugar and 50% fat, it becomes the ultimate irresistible temptation. And while it’s a killer (in the positive sense) for sales it’s a real killer for your waist line. Not only do you eat a treat high in calories, you’re likely to forget about your “just a little bit” intentions and reach for another bar.
The way out
I know it can feel like a spell impossible to break but with a small tweak it’ll start turning in your favour.
What’s the trick? Start reading labels.
Yes, that’s right! Spend a second longer choosing your treat and you’ll be half way out of the chocolate addiction. Go for dark chocolate without milk and with as high a cocoa content as possible. (example)
The more cocoa the chocolate has, the more health benefits for your body and the bigger kick for your mind.
Now, don’t hold back and take on the challenge. Work your way up the cocoa ladder and climb from 60% all the way to 80%. When you do, you’ll discover that the “real” chocolate has very little to do with its milky and sugary alternative.
As you become a chocolate detective also watch out for the sugar content, which shouldn’t get higher than 30 gr in 100 gr bar (example). After all we don’t want to mask the beautiful hint of raw bitterness in the real chocolate, right! 🙂
When even the darkest chocolate tastes like heaven and you could eat kilos, it may be time for some chocolatey detox. Perhaps the combination of fat and sugar is working all too well on your taste buds and brain cells, making it impossible to control your desire.
If that’s the case, you still don’t need to give cocoa up. Simply leave out the combo of sugar and fat while enjoying cocoa combined with the sweetness of fruits and complex carbs.
Trust me when you do, you’re still up for some real treats which are quite easy to come by! They can look something like this:
- Add cocoa powder or raw cocoa nibs to your porridge (to make up for the bitter flavour sweeten it with a few raisins, banana, pears or some other fruit)
- Make a Hot Chocolate from plant milk and cocoa powder
- Chop up a banana, cover it with soy yogurt and sprinkle with cocoa powder
- For a nutritious spread, process cocoa powder with cannellini beans and some dates or raisins
- Add cocoa powder to smoothies
- Soak up chia seeds overnight in plant milk, coconut and raspberries with a hint of cocoa powder
- For a real treat enjoy Indulgent Raspberry Brownies
Now, how is that for a love affair!
Have you found your cocoa champion? Let me know all about it in the comments below so we get to share some chocolate wisdom.
Cheers to the brown gold!