by Molly Wallach, RD
Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. The temptation is real. Do you deny the sweet treat completely or cave and get the chocolate that is calling to you? Let’s start with this question – can chocolate actually be healthy for you?
You’ve probably heard conflicting statements on whether chocolate is bad or good for you. Yes, the added sugar, fats and processing that typically comes from producing milk chocolate can be bad for you. However, there is research that showcases the nutritional benefits that can come from pure, unsweetened cacao, which is very different from milk chocolate, making it the better choice if you choose to give in to your chocolate craving.
So, what are some benefits of cacao?
Good source of fiber. Cacao is a natural food that is minimally processed and a good source of fiber as it’s derived from a seed.
High in magnesium. Cacao is high in magnesium which helps lower your risk of diabetes by regulating insulin and blood pressure, producing strong bones, decreasing risk of cardiovascular disease and promoting a healthier nervous system.
Enhances mood. Ever heard of chocolate being the “love drug”? It’s simply referring to the enhanced mood and higher energy levels put off from the romantic dance of dopamine and phenylethylamine (PEA) that occurs when you eat chocolate. PEA is found higher in dark chocolates or chocolates with more than 60% of cacao.
There are benefits to eating chocolate, but you want to make sure you are choosing the right chocolate. It is best to eat chocolate that has clean, naturally derived cacao as it provides the most nutritional benefits of all chocolate options. Because it is minimally processed, there is very little sugar or fat in it, which can provide a bitter taste. You may want to start enjoying this kind of chocolate by trying cacao nibs (similar to chocolate chips) or one ounce of dark chocolate a day. Look for options with a minimum of 60-70% cacao.