Happy February, everyone! I love this time of the year so much. It’s heart month, Chris’ birthday month and of course, Valentine’s Day is coming up so there’s an extra dose of love in the air! Whether it’s loving on your significant other a little more, your family, or just showing yourself some extra love this month, be sure to make time for those who mean the most.
I thought it would be fitting to write about one of my deepest loves this month, chocolate. I have no regrets incorporating sweets into my diet every now and then. I think at this point in the winter months – regardless of where you live – it’s nice to just indulge a little bit more on things that make your taste buds and soul feel good! I’m here to encourage your chocolate habits but also to give you a quick reminder from the doctor side of me, enjoy everything in moderation.
The Benefits of Chocolate
We probably all know this to be true; dark chocolate is one of the best options out there in terms of sweet treats that stay in line with your health. The darker you go, the better it is for you. I suggest looking at bars that are 70% cacao or higher. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants – specifically flavonoids, and so much more! It actually contains more antioxidants than both green tea or red wine— Bonus!
What Are Flavonoids?
Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables but also in wine, tea, and you guessed it, chocolate! Chocolate specifically contains a type of flavonoid called Flavan-3-ols, which are very high in nutritional value. Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant that help your body defend against harmful molecules that can be introduced in various ways like through stress, and just everyday living. Your body does produce antioxidants naturally, but chocolate is a tasty way to get bonus amounts into your system. Antioxidants help fight against things like inflammation, which is caused by germs, allergens, and other toxic irritants that trigger these reactions.
Dark chocolate and specifically, cacao, can help boost your mood! Research found that when participants consumed 48 grams of organic chocolate that contained 70% cacao, it increased neuroplasticity in the brain. This can help with mood, cognitive function, and memory. The perfect excuse to eat some chocolate while you study!
In moderation, dark chocolate can help improve your blood flow and help lower blood pressure. In addition, it’s convenient that we’re celebrating heart month because dark chocolate can also help raise HDL – which is the good cholesterol, but also prevents oxidation in LDL – which is the bad cholesterol. Plus, it can aid in reducing insulin resistance which helps with heart disease and diabetes.
As mentioned above, dark chocolate can help stabilize insulin which stabilizes blood sugar and helps manage appetite. Both of these results can lead to added weight control if that’s a goal you’re trying to achieve. Plus, it improves glucose metabolism, which will also help with weight control and prevent the onset of diabetes.
As if this list of benefits can get any better! There are many nutrients in dark chocolate that also benefit your skin and complexion. Some of those include manganese, which supports the production of collagen and helps keep your skin looking young and fresh. Then calcium, which helps repair and renew, and is so essential because our skin is constantly turning over. Lastly, the high levels of antioxidants in darker chocolate can help protect our skin against harmful UV rays from the sun.
Moderation, Moderation, Moderation
This list is seriously impressive, but remember, moderation still matters. I am not giving you the green light to go consume all the mocha frappucinos. I mean, if you want to, go for it, but don’t expect these results! It is recommended that you stick to 1-2 oz of dark chocolate daily. Remember it is ideal to keep it at 70% cacao or darker! If the taste is a little too bitter for you, I love to break up some pieces with some nuts or berries and enjoy them together. Keep in mind that dark chocolate is high in calories and fat, again, not always a bad thing but if that’s on your radar, it’s good to know.
Alright, I’ve broken down all the info, now let’s dive into some of my favorite dark chocolate treats. I honestly love the classic glass of wine and a piece of chocolate pairing after a long shift when I need to wind down a little bit so I’ve definitely found my favorites over the years!
I wrote about See’s in my last newsletter and I’m just such a fan. They offer the Classic Red Heart boxes of chocolate right in time for Valentine’s Day but also have one specifically for dark chocolate lovers!
Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate Twilight Delight Bar
This beauty sits at 72% cacao. Chocolate has flavor notes, almost like coffee or wine, and I find that this one has a deep roasted flavor, with notes of coffee. It pairs so well with an espresso or black coffee during that midday pick-me-up!
Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa Intense Dark Bar
Lindt is such a staple and classic in any grocery store. I find their dark chocolate to be the perfect level of creaminess. If you’re new to incorporating dark chocolate into your life, don’t worry! It’s an acquired taste! I would recommend this Lindt Excellence bar as the perfect first place to start.
There you have it! A great way to kick of this month of love with some extra heart health tips and a way to indulge in delicious types of chocolate. What are your favorite dark chocolate go-tos? I’ll take any excuse to try more!