Weight loss to improved memory, 5 reasons chocolate is good for you
Your ultimate guide to chocolate as a superfood
Nothing gladdens our hearts more than a headline proclaiming that chocolate is, in fact, good for you. We’ve received enough validation from researchers around the world to determine that chocolate, or rather cacao, is a true blue superfood.
But before you sink your life’s savings into moving to Chicago to be near the Nutella restaurant of your dreams, hold up. Is all chocolate good for you? Should you really eat that whole bar for dessert? Will it cause your teeth to rot? How can you include it in your everyday diet? Will it really help after you’ve encountered a dementor?
We answer all your pressing chocolate-coated questions.
Why should you include more chocolate in your diet?
It enhances your mood
“I think the reason chocolates are so popular is because they’re a mood enhancer,” says nutritionist Suman Aggarwal, before adding, “It instantly makes you feel better by stimulating the production of endorphins.” Dark chocolate also raises the serotonin levels in your brain. That’s a feel good chemical in charge of mood, sleep and appetite. It also lowers levels of cortisol, your body’s stress hormone.
“Cacao reduces blood pressure and LDL (low-density lipoprotein,” says Suman, “The flavanoids (antioxidants) present in chocolate helps in doing that.” This also helps regulate blood flow and prevents the formation of clots. A research study found that it restores flexibility to your arteries that prevent them from clogging.
It’s good for your brain
“Because it increases the blood flow, it automatically becomes beneficial for your brain,” says Suman, “The regulated blood flow helps in improving your cognitive functions and memory retention.” According to her, chocolate can help those suffering from nerve damage by preventing further deterioration.
It’s packed with nutrients
While dark chocolate is packed with anti-oxidants (twice the amount found in red wine and almost triple the amount in green tea), it’s also rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals. Dark chocolate contains magnesium (“something we don’t get enough of in our everyday diet,” says Suman). It also contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, C, D and E and minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, copper and phosphorus.
It can help you lose weight
In his book Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight, neuroscientist Will Clower claims that chocolate can actually help you with portion control. According to him, if you eat a small square of dark chocolate 20 minutes before a meal, it triggers a hormone in your brain that helps in curbing your appetite.
Will chocolate cause your tooth to rot?
While you should avoid milk chocolate if you want your teeth to be healthy (or have a dentist appointment looming in the near future), make dark chocolate your best friend. “It’s the added sugar and milk that causes the damage,” says Suman. “Dark chocolate contains theobromine that actually hardens the enamel,” she says.
What should you look for when buying chocolate?
A golden ticket? Yes. But just in case you’re not living in an alternate universe created by Roald Dahl, the most important thing to look out for is the cacao level in the chocolate. “The minimum is 70-80%. Anything lower than that means that the effectiveness of cacao as a superfood has decreased,” says Suman.
How can you include chocolate as a superfood in your everyday diet?
“You can have hot chocolate, without any added sugar and milk, everyday,” recommends Suman, “It will give you all the benefits and it will be a delicious treat.” For some people, getting past the bitter taste of dark chocolate can be tough. Suman suggests dipping it in the fruit of your choice. “You can go for chocolate covered goji berries, acai berries, dates or strawberries. It will decrease the bitterness of the cacao and give you the additional benefits of the superfood.
You can also treat yourself once in a while with indulgent dark chocolate recipes for your next dinner party or date night. We asked Sunil Patel and Sanjay Bambhaniya, co-founders of The Chocolate Heaven, to share their best recipes involving chocolate.
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 ½ cups roasted Marcona almonds (not in oil)
1 pound good-quality dark chocolate (62%-70% cacao), finely chopped
Coarse sea salt (for sprinkling)
Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or foil. Combine sugar with 2 tbsp water in a small saucepan. Then stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and cook, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until caramel is dark amber, for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately add butter then whisk until it melts. Add almonds, stir until well coated. Transfer it to a baking sheet, spreading out to separate nuts. Let it cool. Break up any large clumps of nuts. Make sure to set aside ¼ of nuts. Stir chocolate in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until melted. Remove from heat, add nuts from baking sheet, and stir quickly to combine. Spread chocolate-nut mixture on same baking sheet, keeping nuts in a single layer. Top with the reserved nuts and sprinkle with salt. Chill until chocolate is set. Break bark into pieces and store between layers of parchment or waxed paper.
One 5-pound whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 teaspoon chili powder, garlic powder and dried, crumbled Mexican oregano
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
¼ cup olive oil
2 ½ cups chopped white onion (from 1 large or 2 small onions)
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 ½ cups broth (homemade or store-bought low sodium)
5 pasilla chillies, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes and drained
One 3.2 ounce disk Mexican chocolate, roughly chopped
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. In a medium bowl, mix the chilli powder, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, cinnamon, salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Set a cooling or baking sheet. Place the chicken pieces on the rack and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Rub the mixture all over. Rub some of the mixture in between the skin and the breast meat. Transfer to the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 160 degrees F and the juices run clear when pierced with a fork. It should take about 50 minutes to an hour. Remove the chicken from the oven and cover with some aluminum foil. Let rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil ina heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Then add the tomato sauce and chicken broth and cook over medium-high heat until the flavors incorporate, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Let it cool slightly. Transfer the mixture to a blender with soaked pasilla chillies and puree until smooth. Return to the same saucepan and add the chopped chocolate, stirring over medium heat until fully melted, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Top with the chocolate pasilla sauce. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve.
Ingredients (serves 4)
3 tablespoons nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew, sunflower seed)
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon chia seeds, optional
1 teaspoon hemp hearts, optional
1 teaspoon bee pollen, optional
1 teaspoon chopped nuts, seeds or other toppings, optional
Peel bananas and coat with nut butter. Then heat a pan of water and create a double boiler by adding another pan on top of the lightly boiling water. Add chocolate chips and coconut oil and stir continuously until melted. Pour over the nut butter covered bananas and spread around to coat. Sprinkle with toppings of choice, in this case, chia seeds, hemp seeds and bee pollen. Slice and enjoy.