Chocolate, my comfort food of choice. Break a piece off the chocolate bar, place it in my mouth and let it just melt away into creamy deliciousness.
“You can’t have chocolate” is the reaction I get when I share that I eat an ounce of chocolate a day.
Oh, but I know the secret of chocolate and I’ll share it with you, so you can guiltlessly enjoy your daily dose of chocolate.
So, is chocolate truly bad for our health?
That depends on the type of chocolate you choose to eat. There’s good chocolate and then there’s bad chocolate.
Like me, you probably grew up eating the “bad” chocolate. Really, who knew there was “good” chocolate? I didn’t.
As I have ventured into the realm of healthier eating, I have discovered the many faces of chocolate. Let me share what I have discovered over the past couple of years and why it makes a difference to our health and well-being.
The Many Faces of Chocolate
First, we need to understand the many faces of chocolate: Cacao, Cocoa, Cocoa Butter, Chocolate, and White Chocolate.
There was a time when I only knew three versions of “Chocolate”; which were Cocoa, Chocolate, and White Chocolate. Cocoa was used in my baking and making homemade hot chocolate, chocolate was used for frosting and candy, and white chocolate was used to make homemade candy and anything else I could come up with – I have enjoyed my share of white chocolate through the years.
My chocolate education began at our local “Real Foods” store as I began my venture into organic food shopping. The owner of our local store is very nice and instructed me on why I wanted to change my attitude toward chocolate and begin purchasing the nutrient dense and healthier dark chocolate.
This is what I learned:
Cacao is a bean that you grind to make your cocoa powder. This is not something I have ventured into, as I am a lazy cook and just buy the powder.
Cocoa Powder is the Cacao bean that has the fat removed and ground into powder. You may see this referred to as “cacao powder” or “cocoa powder”. This powder is unsweetened and bitter. There are different grades of cocoa powder that are available for purchase. The higher the percentage, the more flavonoids the powder contains. Look for a percentage greater than 60%. I buy 75% and above for my personal baking.
Cocoa Butter is the fat from the Cacao seed.
I have to be honest with this one; I had never heard of cocoa butter and had no idea what it was. As I was shopping at my local “Real Foods” store I saw this bag of “white” chocolate chips (or so I thought), picked it up and purchased it. The bag stated that it was cocoa butter, but I was clueless. Came home, put it in the pantry and had no idea what to do with it. Finally, I came across a recipe that called for “cocoa butter”; I pulled out my bag and began cooking away
Well, I’m a nibbler, so while I was mixing this new recipe I started popping those little chips in my mouth. OH MY, is all I have to say. I could have sat down and nibbled myself straight into a heart attack. There are no words to describe these little jewels. I didn’t eat the entire bag, but I will say “I hid them, for fear of hubby thinking they were for his late night candy run.”
If you haven’t experienced true fresh cocoa butter, I encourage you to buy some and try not to eat them all before you finish your recipe.
Chocolate is made from combining cocoa butter, sugar, and vanilla. You caught that, right? The sugar and vanilla part? To make milk chocolate, milk is added to the ingredient list. This is our candy and melting chocolates and has absolutely no health benefits for you.
White Chocolate doesn’t exist. I know; I was horrified to find out this bit of information. Imagine my embarrassment when I walked into my “Real Foods” store and asked if they had white chocolate. Their look said it all and then they proceeded to teach me more about chocolate. What in the heck have I been using for the past thirty years? Stay away from the pasteurized milk and sugar product called “White Chocolate”.
Now that we’ve had our short “Chocolate Tutorial” out of the way. Let me share why I can eat an ounce of chocolate a day and not fear the health police knocking at my door.
Here’s 7 Benefits of eating Dark Chocolate
- Lowers cholesterol.
- Good for the heart. Dark chocolate may help lower high blood pressure and increase blood flow in your arteries and heart. Also reduces the risk of blood clots.
- Improves your skin. Dark chocolate contains lots of flavanols, which protect the skin against UV damage.
- Anti-diabetic. Many studies have shown that dark chocolate improves insulin sensitivity, helping to improve blood sugar levels.
- Mood enhancer. Dark chocolate boosts your serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain, improving your mood.
- Rich in minerals. Dark chocolate contains calcium, magnesium and potassium.
- Good source of antioxidants. Dark chocolate also contains a vast amount of antioxidants, which are great for promoting heart health, decreasing risk of infection, and fighting free radicals in the body.
So, How Much Chocolate Can You Eat?
As good as the benefits sound, we don’t want to over indulge with chocolate – I know, it’s hard. Remember it’s still high in calories and fat, the good kind of fat. And, our bodies need the “good” fats in order to function properly.
The Good News: You can eat chocolate everyday; just limit your daily dose to 1 ounce per day. Make sure your chocolate is high quality dark chocolate. Remember, the higher the percentage of cacao in your chocolate determines how healthy it is. Stay away from 60% and below and always check your ingredients to verify that you are buying real chocolate.
Get creative in your uses for your daily dose. You can put chocolate in your morning smoothie or morning coffee. Shave it over your morning cereal or pancake.
Here’s a quick little chocolate recipe, for you chocolate lovers, that you can whip up in a moment’s notice. I love it.
¼ cup Organic Cacao Powder
½ cup Organic Honey (Buy Local if available)
Whisk together and enjoy
Whip up a chocolate recipe and share with the rest of us to enjoy.