Valentine’s Day (February 14th) - With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, it’s time when many select a loving gift for a dear friend, colleague, relative or significant other. I completely support this old-fashioned, thoughtful and giving tradition as it promotes healthy hormone release and well-being for both the giver and receiver. While roses and jewelry are always on the Top-10 Hit List for demonstrations of our Valentine affections, giving chocolate is ever popular as well. And, when a clean version of the beloved cacao bean is used, I LOVE the idea of gifting chocolate to a Valentine! In short, the right kind of chocolate is not only delicious but provides us with numerous health benefits as well. Here’s what I mean.
For starters, as coffee comes from a coffee bean, chocolate is derived from a cacao bean. When I refer to clean cacao, I mean an organic cacao bean which will eventually lead to organic chocolate. The other piece to clean has to do with the percentage of cacao versus sugar that there is in a dark chocolate bar. I’m terribly sorry to say this but milk chocolate, white chocolate and all those inexpensive chocolate bars DO NOT contain cacao and consequently DO NOT have health benefits. If you’re a milk chocolate lover, keep reading and try not to despair. Grant you, dark chocolate is an acquired taste. (I know. I’m a former milk chocolate lover.) But, by easing into dark chocolate over the course of time, our taste buds will adjust to this less sweet, yet still delicious and benevolent treat!
Now-a-days, it can be pretty easy to read the packaging on a chocolate bar. A 70% dark chocolate bar simply means that there is 70% chocolate to 30% sugar. Likewise, an 85% dark chocolate bar, (which I eat and suggest everyone eventually give a try), has 85% chocolate or cocoa and 15% sugar. (Please note, there is no milk in either of these.) As great as healthy chocolate is for us, (which I will go over in a moment), excess sugar will undo those very benefits. When it comes to chocolate consumption, it always behooves us to make it healthy dark chocolate!
Dark Chocolate Conversion
If you currently enjoy a chocolate bar containing 45% or lower cacao, consider increasing the chocolate percentage by 10% at a time. Experiment and go from 45% cacao to 55%-60% chocolate. Get used to that higher level of cacao and reduced sugar. Once your taste buds have adjusted, try it again. Same way. Go from 60% cacao to 70% and so on. Take your time and melt into the experience. This is a much friendlier way for us to gain health benefits from our chocolate habits and pleasures.
The Pros of Dark, Organic Chocolate (1)
• Increased Anti-oxidants – Anti-oxidants are our friends and move around in our body eating up harmful free radicals. Free radicals can lead to cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. So, having more friendly and protecting anti-oxidants in our bodies is in our best interest!
• Increased Anti-Inflammatory Properties – Reduced systemic inflammation in our body means lowering the risk of developing diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and other inflammatory conditions. Works for me!
• Cardiovascular Benefits – There is reduced hypertension, (lower of blood pressure), and prevention of fat-like substances in the bloodstream to clog our arteries when we eat dark chocolate. Also, when we reduce the blood’s ability to clot, we may also reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
My Preferred Chocolate Bar
I’ve experimented with a variety of chocolate bars. As time has gone on, I’ve been able to eat bars containing higher percentage of cacao with ease. Please bear in mind though, even when eating 1 serving from a regular 3.5-ounce dark chocolate 85% bar, (12 pieces of the 30 small squares making up the bar), we are consuming a bit more than 1 teaspoon of sugar. So, eat with gusto, pleasure and gratitude, but be mindful about sticking to the suggested serving size. Of course, chocolate can trigger and addictive response, so if this is your case, it may be in your best interest, to eat dark chocolate sparingly.
Currently, GREEN & BLACK’S Organic 85% Cacao Bar is #1 on my favorites list. Here’s why:
• There are only 3 ingredients in this bar – Cocoa, cane sugar, and vanilla are the sole bar ingredients! With any processed food, the fewer the ingredients, the better for our health! Another bonus: I recognize and can pronounce all the ingredients. Fantastic!
• Every ingredient is organic!
• All ingredients were traded in compliance with Fairtrade Standards. This means fairer trading conditions and opportunities are extended for producers in developing countries to invest in their businesses and communities for a sustainable future.
• The bar is made in Poland. Generally speaking, Europe has higher standards for mold levels. Chocolate made in Europe therefore has less chance of being moldy. FYI – Always store your chocolate in the refrigerator or freezer as the mold will continue to grow.(2)
• It’s easily accessible – Whether buying on-line or at your neighborhood health food store, Whole Foods, etc. I’ve never had any trouble locating this bar. Additionally, by joining Thrive Market, you can purchase this bar and other healthy items at a significant discount.
There you have it my friends! Feel free to give the pleasure and benevolence of dark chocolate to your loved ones and yourself on Valentine’s Day and all year round. Your body, heart and mind will feel very cared for and loved!
If you’ve enjoyed this article, feel free to share it with your friends, family, colleagues and Valentines! If you have any comments, please leave them below! Thanks!
1 Kelley, D. CNC (2014) Attention: Chocolate Lovers, 12/16/15, from http://www.ledger-dispatch.com/news/attention-chocolate-lovers
2 Asprey, D. (2012) What Dr. Mercola Didn’t Say About Dark Chocolate & Cardiovascular Diseases, 1/10/16 from http://www.bulletproofexec.com/what-dr-mercola-didnt-say-about-dark-chocolate