Valentine’s is coming up and most of us love to Celebrate with Chocolate. I admit, I love chocolate too and wanted to share why it’s not just the taste I love! Cacao is a super food with some pretty loveable benefits, but as anything there are some side effects I want to share also so you can enjoy with a full perspective. You can also grab my favourite recipes to enjoy it this weekend.
Different types of chocolate
- Cacao powder which is frequently used in baking is the powder of the cacao nibs (inner bean without the shell). These cacao nibs are ground (liquid mass forms) and the cacao butter is removed and it is then brought back to a powder form.
- Cocoa powder follows a similar process, except that some cacao butter is left behind to give it a different texture and flavour. Some manufacturers will also add in potassium carbonate to alkalinize it (dutched powders). This does impact the nutritional state of the cocoa and leaves it lower in nutrient density when it comes to antioxidants and polyphenols.
Benefits of Chocolate
- Chocolate in its most natural form of cacao powder is extremely high in antioxidants, including resveratrol. Antioxidants help us counteract the effects of stress from everyday life, environmental pollutants and much more.
- Chocolate makes us feel good by boosting some of our neurotransmitters such as serotonin and phenylethylamine. The science just backs up what we already now 🙂
- Minerals in this bean include magnesium (important for menstrual health – which is why we crave chocolate during our cycles) . It also contains calcium, chromium, iron, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese.
- Cacao benefits our heart health both with it’s high level of antioxidants, but also in an ability to improve insulin resistance. Now that’s worth a celebrating! Remember that this is not when chocolate is sugar laden or full of dairy. Milk chocolate is a no-no.
Too much of a good thing?
Moderation: As a nutritionist that practices balance, I will say all good things in moderation.
Junk Chocolate: Chocolate comes in many forms when we purchase it – and as a health conscious consumer you need to be careful not to select sugar, dairy or processed oil laden chocolate. It’s safest to work with cacao powder and bake or choose trusted brands of unsweetened chocolate and add in your sweetener at home.
Side Effects: For some individuals cacao can trigger migraines or headaches, this can be linked to the caffeine content or to the mood stimulant effects. In others it can trigger diarrhea. Each individual needs to listen to their body and recognize what foods they may be sensitive or reacting to.
Kidney Stones: For individuals suffering from kidney stones and have been recommended to follow a low oxalate diet would also likely be advised to avoid chocolate due to higher content of oxalic acid which can interfere in calcium absorption, especially when consumed with sugar.
Enjoy this superfood
To wrap it up, cacao is a superfood! It has lots of great nutrients and with that also comes potential effects that we need to be mindful of, as with any foods. Learning to listen to your own body and it’s messaging is the optimal way to identify what foods support optimal health for you.
This valentines weekend, take some time and try out my favourite recipes by grabbing my e-book of Healthy Chocolate Treats. Enjoy! (in moderation of course)
And always remember to love yourself first, as it’s only then that we can be open to loving and being loved.
Grab your copy: Healthy Chocolate Treats eBook