Once considered just a sweet treat, chocolate has received a lot of media notice recently because it has been found to provide great health benefits. Flavonoid which is found in cocoa and chocolate has antioxidant components as well as has been shown to have a positive effect on our vascular system. It can help in lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot, reports the Cleveland Clinic.
“Unprocessed chocolate is actually quite healthy for you. If you go to a health foods store and look at the nutrition labels of raw cacao or raw cacao nibs, you’ll find there’s fiber, magnesium and vital nutrients that contribute to your well-being and mood,” according to Keren Gilbert, MS, RD, certified nutritionist and founder and president of Decision Nutrition™, a nutrition consulting firm.
The problem is that most of the chocolate that we consume is overly processed and also has added butter, sugar and cream, which adds unhealthy fats; which isn’t heart healthy by any stretch of the imagination.
So how do you reap the great benefits of chocolate?
First start by picking a dark chocolate with at least at least 70 percent cacao to make sure there is some real cacao in it, says Gilbert. It will taste bitter at first but as your palette develops you will desire the lighter versions less and less. Lindt has great and easily accessible bittersweet dark chocolate.
Second Gilbert suggests adding cacao powder or nibs into yogurt or shakes for a rich, chocolate flavor. If that’s a bit off putting, stir in dried cranberries, honey or maple syrup to add natural sweetness.
Third just because it’s good for you doesn’t mean that you should consume an entire bar in every sitting. Serving sizes on food packages aren’t always helpful or useful but a good rule of the thumb would be to enjoy in moderation, like having a one ounce serving a few times per week. Pair it with a red wine such as Justin Vineyards ISOSCELES for a Flavonoid party.