Five Ways Chocolate Can Improve Your Health & Wellbeing
When we're sad we reach for the chocolate, when we're in love we give chocolate, when we celebrate we share chocolate.
What is it about chocolate that makes it so versatile?
1. Chocolate and the Heart
Research shows that the the same flavonoids found in vegetables, fruit, tea and red wine, are also in chocolate! Makes sense, right? Chocolate comes from cocoa beans; the fruit of the cocoa tree. What's so good about flavonoids? Well they are what give certain foods antioxidant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the higher the level of flavonoids. These flavonoids are credited with improving blood flow and circulation, lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease. Dark chocolate is also said to curb sugar cravings, which is why you (or is it just me?) can easily eat a whole bar of our salted caramel chocolate in one go, but with our dark chocolate, lime & sea salt, for example, a few squares at a time is enough.
2. Chocolate the Nutrient Powerhouse
I've been working on my fitness recently and trying some of the fabulous Joe Wicks' recipes. Chocolate features more than I would have thought! The reason? Good quality dark chocolate is packed with protein. If we take our 72% dark chocolate bar as an example and look at the nutritional values. It contains 7.9g of plant protein per 100g and 11.2g fibre! That's more than your typical avocado! It also contains 13mg of iron and a whopping 53mg of calcium.
3. Chocolate and the Happy Hormones
Chocolate releases those lovely, mood boosting and pain relieving chemicals in the brain called endorphins. Exercise does the same thing, which is why if you're feeling down, doing a bit of exercise and having a few squares of dark chocolate (chilli chocolate for maximum effect) is THE winning combination. Dopamine, Serotonin and Oxytocin are the other hormones responsible for our happiness and wonderful chocolate helps to release them all.
4. Chocolate and Brain Health
Research indicates that chocolate helps to improve and even repair cognitive function. Diets that are rich in polyphenols are reported to reduce the risk of Alzheimers Disease. Cocoa, a rich source of flavanols, which are a class of polyphenols, has been found to have multiple disease modifying properties and is thought to be a promising route of therapeutic and/or preventative treatment for cognitive decline. It also naturally contains caffeine and not only helps to improve memory but can also give you that much needed boost when you need to concentrate. Scientists recommend drinking two cups of hot chocolate per day to keep the brain healthy.
5. Chocolate and a Time for Reflection
It's no wonder cocoa was used at special ceremonies by the ancient Mayans. The mental benefits of the little ritual of making yourself a hot chocolate are there for everyone to see and experience on any given day. We already know that good quality dark chocolate with a high cocoa content, has multiple health benefits. Taking the time to prepare and make a hot chocolate in the morning or evening (or any time in the day) gives you the chance to take some time for yourself; to reflect on the day ahead or the day that has just been and to take a moment to breathe. A well known calming measure for people with anxiety is to focus on five things they can smell, see and touch. Smelling the rich cocoa powder as you stir it into the warming milk, listening to the sound of a metal spoon against a metal pan, listening to the frothy bubbles popping as you pour it into your favourite mug, sipping and savouring that first mouthful of chocolate and letting those endorphins do their thing. It's a thing of beauty that instant hot chocolate will never do justice to. If this ritual isn't part of your life yet, try our hot chocolate recipe and enjoy a moment of calmness for yourself.