My wife and I recently had the good fortune to be able to take a short vacation to Belize in Central America. One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to a cacao farm where they produce chocolate using the traditional Mayan methods.
We started with the trees, which were heavy with cacao pods. We harvested those pods, got to taste the raw fruit (which tastes like tropical fruit, without any detectable flavor of chocolate), and see how the process of fermentation and drying works. Then, we went inside to turn those dried cacao beans into a homemade chocolate bar. We ground the seeds to a paste, added some extra cacao oil, and a bit of local sugar, and then poured the mixture into a mold to cool in a refrigerator. (I’m not sure how the Mayans did that part.)
The result was the best chocolate bar I have ever tasted! It’s not just a beautiful chocolate bar, but also one that I could feel perfectly good about eating…from both a personal and environmental health perspective. This article by my team at UpWellness will help you understand why not all chocolate is created equal…and why the good stuff is very good indeed.
For the love of chocolate. Rich in vital nutrients, chocolate has to be one of the healthiest and most delicious treats on the planet. But, whatever you do, don’t confuse real dark chocolate with the store-bought fraud.
Real dark chocolate contains healthy ingredients that promote wellness whereas most of the pseudo chocolate you find in the store can actually harm your overall wellbeing.
Let’s take a look at some of the amazing qualities of real dark chocolate.
Chocolate is loaded with nutrients
A 100-gram bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa contains:
- 11 grams of fiber
- 67% of the RDI for iron
- 58% of the RDI for magnesium
- 89% of the RDI for copper
- 98% of the RDI for manganese
- Also – potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium
Chocolate is high in magnesium, a mineral in which 68 percent of us are deficient. Magnesium helps maintain muscles, nerve function, heart health, bone density, and the immune system.
Chocolate is rich in antioxidants, which can help fight signs of aging. Moreover, chocolate can help with symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, and the theobromine and phenylethylamine contained in chocolate can help combat depression and stress.
Research supports the health benefits of chocolate
In one study, chocolate scored higher on the chart for antioxidants, polyphenols, and flavonols than any fruit tested, including blueberries and acai berries.
The naturally occurring caffeine in chocolate is good for a temporary energy boost. The amount of caffeine in dark chocolate is actually only between 5 and 10 milligrams. In comparison, one cup of coffee contains between 100 and 150 milligrams of caffeine.
A study of 470 elderly men revealed that cocoa could reduce the risk of death from heart disease by 50% over a 15 year period – that’s huge!
In yet another study, eating dark chocolate two or more times per week decreased the risk of having calcified plaque in the arteries by 32%.
A third study showed that eating dark chocolate five or more times per week lowered the risk of heart disease by 57%
Why I don’t eat store bought chocolate candy
Store-bought chocolate candies can contain high fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin, artificial colors and flavors, partially hydrogenated oils, vanillin, carrageenan, and TBHQ. These ingredients can affect your immune system, cause chronic inflammation, affect neurological responses and even trigger degenerative diseases. Also, almost all chocolate candies on the market contain genetically modified ingredients, while the selection of organic dark chocolate in stores can be expensive and limited.
Cacao is the unprocessed, unheated version of cocoa and can be bought as a powder, chopped nibs or in its whole form.
Want to learn how to make your own healthy chocolate to enjoy and share?
Coconut oil is an incredible disease-fighting machine. It can help balance blood sugar, lower blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart disease, improve digestion, and boost your metabolism and your immune system. It is antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal and an antioxidant. It can remain in a liquid state in hot temperatures and freeze in colder temperatures. This makes it a perfect ingredient to include in chocolate treats.
Delicious Homemade Chocolate
- ¼ cup raw coconut oil
- ⅔ cup of cocoa powder
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon of sea salt
- Dash of black pepper
- 2 tbsp coconut crystals
- 2 tbsp coconut milk
- Melt the coconut oil by running warm water over the jar or melting in a pot.
- Add cocoa powder to the coconut oil. Add milk or a natural milk alternative if you want milk chocolate. Leave it out otherwise. Then add natural sweetener.
- Add in salt, pepper, turmeric, and cayenne pepper.
- Stir together, and you have the base for any chocolate treat. Pour into a glass container or a candy mold and pop it in the freezer until it hardens.
- You can leave it hot and gooey to use as a chocolate fondue or a chocolate glaze. Pour it over ice cream or frozen yogurt to use it as your own Magic Shell. Make the batch thicker, and you have yourself a homemade chocolate bar.
-The UpWellness Team