February is National Heart Health Month AND Valentine’s day…so let’s discuss reasons we love chocolate so much.
If chocolate isn’t what you think of when you think of heart health, keep reading! Chocolate is perhaps one of those “dream foods” that is both completely delicious but also has a ton of health benefits. And while most of the health benefits are in dark chocolate, all is not lost for those who love milk chocolate or white chocolate.
Health benefits of chocolate
Chocolate falls into 3 categories: dark, milk, and white. While all are made from the same cocoa bean plant, the differences have to do with the ratio of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar they contain.
As mentioned, dark chocolate is often hailed as the “healthiest” type of chocolate since it contains the highest proportion of cocoa solids that contains the most nutritional punch. Dark chocolate also has the least amount of sugar and is highest in fiber and minerals, including magnesium, iron, and phosphorus.
7 Reasons to Love Dark Chocolate:
- Rich in antioxidants, which may protect from disease and heart damage since antioxidants fight off free radicals & oxidative stress that can cause damage to the body
- May help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension thanks to the flavanols it contains which may help improve blood flow through the arteries
- Helps improve cholesterol ratios, by raising HDL (the good kind) and lowering LDL levels (the bad kind) thanks to the rich source of polyphenols it contains
- May lower risk of heart disease, also thanks to the flavanol plant compounds
- May help boost brain function according to this study, which shows that chocolate may help improve blood flow to the brain and reduce cognitive decline. The flavanols it contains may also help improve verbal fluency and improve cognitive function in elderly people with age related cognitive decline
- Has a positive impact on placenta growth and fetal development, when about 1 oz is eaten every day. This may lead to healthier pregnancies and is great news for pregnant momma’s who love chocolate!
- Might improve blood flow and benefit athletic performance, also thanks to the flavanols it contains that help to increase nitric oxide and reduce oxygen cost, similarly to beets and beetroot juice
But what about the others? Milk chocolate is definitely the most popular and widely used, as it is a common ingredient in thousands of candies and other desserts. It also contains cocoa solids, but much less due to the addition of milk powder. Milk chocolate contains at most about 35% cocoa versus a minimum of about 60% found in dark chocolate.
White chocolate contains sugar, milk products, and cocoa butter, but no cocoa solids (which is why it is white). It is the highest in sugar of all the chocolate types. While these other 2 types of chocolate may not be as healthy as dark, there are things you can do and look for when eating milk or white chocolate to help boost their nutritional value.
Ways to boost the nutritional value of any chocolate:
- Pair it with nuts. Nuts are another rich source of minerals, healthy fats, and fiber and are delicious with chocolate!
- Add some spices, such as ground turmeric or cinnamon, which contain many health benefits
- Drizzle it on berries or pomegranate seeds, which are both packed with antioxidants, fiber, and loads of other important nutrients
Recipes we think you’ll love…
Now that we’ve got your mouth watering, please consider healthfully indulging in some of our favorite chocolate recipes (linked below!)
Gooey Vegan Double Chocolate Cookies (feel free to use coconut flour in place of Tigernut flour if desired)