I always enjoy a little amount of dark chocolate, but did you know that it has lots of health benefits but only if you eat the right type.
What do I mean by the right type?
Do you know the difference between Cacao and Cocoa?
Here I want to explain to you the difference so that you can choose what to buy based on your own individual needs and so that you know how dark chocolate is good for your health.
An example for me is that I use cacao nibs quite a bit when I make protein bars or healthy paleo cookies. I also only bake for a short period to keep all the goodness inside.
How is dark chocolate good for your health?
Let me share my top tips with you.
Where Does Chocolate Come From?
All chocolate starts as cacao.
Raw Cacao are whole beans that sit in pods which grow in Theobroma Trees. There are only small areas in the world where these trees can grow.
Here are the top 10 with their percentage of Cacao grown.
Cote D’Ivoire (39%)
Cacao Trees only grow close to the Equator as you can see from the areas above. They need plenty of rainfall and temperatures between 20 to 32 degrees Celsius.
The process of farming Cacao is still unchanged in the last 100 years. The dwelling of farming is still family run in an area of around only 10 acres of land.
How Do You Make Dark Chocolate?
The beans with some clinging pulp to them are put into bins and covered for several days to allow microbes that feed on the pulp to ferment the beans.
The fermented beans are then dried for several days and it is at this point that they can be sold to chocolate manufacturers.
This process starts to develop the chocolate flavour and sweetness but does not apply to any raw products.
The beans here are crushed and separated from their outer hulls and this results in the cacao nibs.
The next stage is the grinding of the cacao nibs producing a liquor which allows it to become ready to be made into chocolate products.
The liquor is roughly half fat in the form of cacao butter and is pressed out to make cocoa powder.
To create chocolate the liquor is mixed with other ingredients such as sugar, vanilla, cocoa butter, and milk.
What are The Health Benefits Of Raw Cacao?
Made from Cold Pressing the Whole Beans, which keeps all the vitamins, minerals and enzymes unharmed.
Loaded with Vitamins
Aids Weight Loss
Iron – Good for vegetarians and vegans
Brain food due to the levels of tryptophan (creates serotonin)
Has an oxygen, radical absorbance capacity (orac) score of 95,500 per 100g which makes it one of the best sources of antioxidants which is helpful in preventing and repairing free radical damage. These antioxidants help to protect your heart and prevent diseases.
Cacao is also a known source of magnesium which is especially important for our heart health. Magnesium is required for over 300 enzymatic reactions including the synthesis of fat, protein and nucleic acids, muscular contractions and relaxation, cardiac health, and bone building. Magnesium also improves blood and is a key role in the metabolism of ATP which is critical for aerobic and anaerobic functions.
Raw Cacao is also food to consider in the fight against heart disease and Alzheimer’s as it improves blood flow to all organs of the body.
What is Cocoa?
Usually in powder form and is heated and processed at high temperatures. This is the start of the process which we will see on the shop floors in a commercial perspective commonly known as Chocolate.
Unfortunately, it is this process that changes the molecular structure drastically of the cacao bean reducing the enzyme content and lowering the overall nutritional value.
Loss of Nutrients
Lower levels of Cacao
Usually mixed with extra sugar and milk
Loaded with inferior flavorings and oils
No super food listing
How Is Dark Chocolate Good For Our Health?
Research shows that dairy inhibits the absorption of antioxidants from Raw Cacao. If you are thinking of making a shake, then you should use a nut milk or coconut milk to reap all the nutritional benefits.
Unsweetened Cacao Nibs are much healthier for you to use instead of chocolate chips.
Heating Raw Cacao Powder will lose some of its antioxidant properties. Try putting into smoothies as an alternative.
Try using Cacao Nibs raw in trail mixes etc to help keep all the goodness intact.
Dark chocolate with at least 70% of cacao is still a good source of antioxidants and minerals.
Ensure you eat chocolate in moderation due to its calorie content.
Nutritional Comparison of Unsweetened Cacao Nibs versus 70% Dark Chocolate
Unsweetened Cacao Nibs 28 grams
Fat 11 grams
Saturated Fat 2.5 grams
Protein 9 grams
Carbohydrates 6 grams
Added Sugars 0 grams
Fibre 3 grams
Iron 6% Recommended Daily Allowance
70% Dark Chocolate 28 grams
Fat 13 grams
Saturated Fat 8 grams
Protein 2 grams
Carbohydrates 14 grams
Added Sugars 9 grams
Fibre 3 grams
Iron 13% Recommended Daily Allowance
Dark chocolate is the closest that you will get to eating for all the health benefits of raw chocolate. Anything less than 70% of dark chocolate will lose the health benefits.
The Harmful Effects Of Eating Chocolate
Weight Gain High Calorie Content
Heart Disease Saturated fat lead to high cholesterol and high blood pressure
Diabetes Refined carbohydrates can raise blood sugar levels
Tooth Decay Added sugar is bad for our teeth
Reflux Causes Esophageal sphincter to relax and cause heart burn
Caffeine Effects Over stimulation of the central nervous system
Link with Acne Due to high dairy content and carbohydrates
The higher the cacao content in the chocolate the better the health benefits are for you. Equally, the higher the cacao content is the less harmful are the health risks which occur with the added ingredients especially in the more commercial type of chocolate.
Hopefully, you can see the huge differences between enjoying dark chocolate with the highest cacao levels possible to keep all the health benefits. Obviously, this is associated with taste and I know that for myself eating dark chocolate will stop me from binge eating as I could quite easily do with milk chocolate for instance.
Sugar for me is hugely addictive which is why making your own protein bars or cookies enable you to control that sweetness which is better for your health and your weight.
There are other levels of better chocolate for you that I have not gone into which is mainly to do with the way the commercial manufacturers purchase their cacao compared to fine chocolatiers.
I suppose the reason why you see that fine chocolatier manufacturers sell their chocolates for more money stems right from where they pick their products from. Usually they will buy a better-quality bean and the whole process of fermentation through to final product has a lot more care and less sugar, milk and other additives.
A chocolate company such as Harper Macaw are one of my favorites and you can find out more about them here https://harpermacaw.com/pages/our-story.
My suggestion therefore is to look at your labels to ensure that you are buying a good quality chocolate. In essence this will mean that you will be paying a lot more for your bar but it will taste better and have greater health benefits and you will not be eating as much so will be less harmful.
Savor the flavour!
Let me know what you think or if you have any further questions please comment below.