Well this just might be the best Tuesday of the year. February 1st is National Dark Chocolate Day.
If at any point you get lost in this post, just follow this recipe from the Food Network. Ha!
Did you know chocolate is actually plant derived? A cocoa pod has 30-50 seeds inside and looks like this:
The seeds are removed and dried, and shipped far far away to begin processing at the Hershey/Ghirardelli/Lindt factories before ending up in your belly. Here’s a quick run-down of the benefits of dark chocolate, pre-major processing:
- High in antioxidants, which are linked to prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
- Reduces LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol that we want lower)
- Seems to reduce inflammation
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves mood! (Duh). Dark chocolate contains tryptophan, which through some biochemistry I wont bore you with, can help with depression. It also can increase dopamine which is associated with pleasure.
- May improve blood flow: has anti-clotting and blood thinning properties
- It’s delicious! and we all know that enjoying good food is beneficial to mental health.
The flavanoids that make cocoa so good for you are super bitter, which is why it’s processed (i.e. heated, cooled down, treated with alkali and refined, etc) and sugar, milk, cream, caramel, and nougat are added. But it loses it’s health benefits with every step. Sorry Twix-lovers, you’re still eating the most unhealthy candy bar.
So, experts suggest
that adding small amounts (i.e. a one ounce piece a few times a week) of dark chocolate to a healthy diet may have beneficial effects.
Sweets, the key here is small amounts of dark chocolate. A lot is not better! Dark chocolate still has calories, sadly. So slow down and savor a few heavenly bites.
The more antioxidant rich a bar of chocolate is, the higher the percentage of cocoa. If you’re attempting to convert from milk-chocolate, start slowly or you’ll hate it (typing from experience). Work your way up from milk chocolate (~20-50% cocoa) to semi-sweet chocolate (50-69% cocoa) and eventually to bitter (70%+ cocoa).
Oh, and you don’t need to spend a fortune on gourmet dark chocolate. Chocolove xoxox is delish and sells mini bars in perfect 1-oz serving sizes.
The Almond & Sea Salt in Dark Chocolate is my favorite. YUM.