Nutritionist, Traveler, and Blogger at TheWholeTara.com. ❤
It’s Monday morning and you’ve committed to leading a healthy week. The pressure is on, and so are the cravings! Between the pizza and muffin urges, what’s a girl to do? As a nutritionist, I can tell you that you don’t have to give up all the indulgent things in the world when you set out to live a life of wellness. It’s all about finding balance and feeling confident in the food choices you make. If you’re constantly focused on all the foods you should avoid, you’ll miss out on certain foods that can be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle in moderation…like chocolate.
As a self-proclaimed chocolate lover, I can tell you that there are health benefits that go way beyond how good it tastes. Of course I’m not talking about your run of the mill Twix and Snickers chocolate, but rather the darker chocolate varieties. All chocolate comes from cacao beans, which are technically seeds, from the fruit of the Theobroma cacao tree. Once the beans are harvested they go through a process of drying, roasting and fermentation to reduce the bitter flavanol levels to produce the rich chocolate flavor we all know and love. Cacao is the purest form of chocolate you can obtain, while cocoa is the heated form of cacao in powder form. As mentioned, when looking for chocolate, choose dark and aim for a cacao percentage of 70% or higher, according to Dr. Mercola, as a good guideline to reap the benefits which have been shown to include lower blood pressure, stress, and obesity levels.
- Think Smarter: Dark chocolate has been known to give the brain a short term boost, along with increased focus. Cocoa is rich in flavanols, which help direct blood circulation to the key areas of the brain. This can help fight brain fatigue and even decrease the aging process.
- Protect Your Arteries: It’s been shown that the polyphenols found in cacao may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by delaying the oxidation of “bad” low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in the body.
- Save Your Skin: If you’re a sun bum like me, then you’ll be psyched to know that the flavanols in dark chocolate help protect the skin from harmful UV rays. While it’s always recommended to use sun protective lotions, dark chocolate that is rich in flavanols has been shown to give you an extra boost.
For chocolate lovers who regularly indulge, choose dark chocolates that are high in cocoa solids and stick to the recommended serving size of one ounce. One way I like to get creative is by adding dark chocolate to some of my favorite recipes: oatmeal cookies, banana bread, and chocolate oatmeal.
So, while there’s no harm in the comfort of having a piece of dark chocolate, it’s important to be aware that most chocolate varieties can be high in sugar, fat and calories. These are not diet recommendations and you should always consult your MD/RD for specific dietary preferences.