Enjoy Chocolate – it’s good for you!

Chocolate is mostly associated with decadence and a cheat food rather than good health. That may not be entirely true. Cocoa has several surprising and impressive health benefits which mean that the occasional indulgence in chocolate could be better for you than you thought.

 

There is one caveat for this though. We are not talking about the common candy bars that line the checkout counter and are filled with toffee, biscuits and loads of sugar. The health benefits discussed here specifically refer to dark chocolate variants, which are higher in cocoa content and less in sugar.

 

Cocoa’s amazing health benefits:

The reverence that these ancient civilizations had for the humble cocoa bean may be well founded. In recent years, scientific studies have found several health benefits:

 

  • Cocoa contains powerful antioxidants and nutrients

Who would have thought that chocolate could be classified as nutritious? Yet dark chocolate contains iron, copper, magnesium and manganese as well as zinc, potassium, selenium and phosphorous. The polyphenols and flavanols contained in cocoa are what provide the powerful antioxidant capability.

 

  • Chocolate can boost brain function

Studies have shown that dark chocolate can boost brain function and alertness. It is believed that the flavanols and stimulants such as caffeine and theobromine contained in cocoa help to increase blood flow to the brain. In elderly patients, chocolate has shown to  improve cognitive ability especially for those with mental impairment.

 

  • Dark chocolate may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease

Chocolate is often promoted as a ‘feel good’ food and women joke about it being a cure for heartache. Turns out, it is good for your heart, your physical heart that is. In observational studies, dark chocolate has shown to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. In elderly men, it also reduced the risk of cardiovascular death by 50% over a period of 15 years.

              

  • Dark chocolate may help reduce oxidized LDL cholesterol

Studies have shown that cocoa can significantly reduce the amount of oxidized LDL cholesterol. This is important in terms of cardiovascular risk. Oxidized LDL cholesterol refers to small dense particles of LDL cholesterol that have reacted with free radicals. In this form, the LDL can damage tissues and specifically arteries and heart muscle.

      

  • Dark chocolate may help lower blood pressure

Many studies have shown a mild lowering of blood pressure by cocoa. It is believed that the flavanols in chocolate stimulate the endothelium to produce nitric oxide. This in turn, triggers a reaction in the arteries to relax which lowers the resistance to blood flow and reduces blood pressure.

     

  • Dark chocolate has sun protective qualities

It may surprise you to learn that dark chocolate can help protect you from sunburn. This doesn’t mean that you should throw away your sunscreen, but you could now also protect your skin from the inside.

 

Not all chocolate is created equal

Even though, chocolate can be found in almost every supermarket and convenient store around the world, few chocolate bars will provide the health benefits detailed above. The reason for this is two fold.

Firstly, the way the cocoa beans are grown influences their quality. Even though cocoa is grown globally, the number of cocoa plantations using organic farming methods is few. Therefore the majority of chocolate available is made from cocoa beans that are sprayed with pesticides during cultivation. There are also reports of child labor and human right violations in various cocoa plantations. Recently, there has been a movement towards fair-trade chocolate which promotes supporting chocolate manufacturers that employ more ethical farming practices. Typically those that follow organic farming methods also subscribe to fair-trade.

Secondly, the way the cocoa beans are roasted and processed affects the quality of nutrients and flavanols. Raw cocoa contains some of the highest levels of nutrients, but it is rare and usually only found in hand crafted artisan chocolates. If you want go for the ultimate quality chocolate then seek out chocolate made with raw cocoa.

 

Quality chocolate is made from few ingredients which usually include cocoa mass or cocoa powder, cocoa butter, sugar, milk and flavorings such as vanilla bean, nuts or mint. If the label contains more than seven ingredients, then it is likely that emulsifiers and artificial ingredients have been added and this is not a quality chocolate. You will pay much more for quality chocolate but it is well worth it both for the superior taste and the added health benefits you can enjoy.

 

Just enough chocolate to stay healthy

While most of us love to indulge in chocolate, we should not use the excuse that chocolate is healthy to overindulge. In studies mentioned above chocolate was given in a ratio of 1 gram per kilogram of body weight per day. This is the recommended amount to enjoy the health benefits without consuming too much sugar.While dark chocolate contains less sugar than most candy type chocolates, it is great to know that in Natureland dark chocolate the only sugar we use is Azeez whole cane sugar. Enjoy a piece or two at a time and savour the rest of the slab.

 

The difference of Natureland chocolate

 

Natureland has three types of dark chocolate: Plain, Hazelnut and Almond, as well as two types of milk chocolate, all made from the finest quality organic ingredients for a delicious taste and good health. The key factor that makes a big difference to the nutritional profile of Natureland chocolate is that it is made using Azeez sugar, and organic ingredients.

 

 

Azeez sugar is made from evaporated organic sugar cane juice. The molasses is not separated out and the sugar is not refined, heated or spun. This is an important difference in the nutritional value of the sugar as it retains important minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphate and iron that don’t exist in refined sugar. It also provides a rich caramel taste that makes Natureland chocolate that much more delicious. Enjoy Natureland chocolate for a smooth rich flavour knowing it is made from quality ingredients including Azeez sugar that retains important minerals.

 

 

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