Chocolate Lovers – Watch for Health Benefits

We always make excuses to enjoy the guilty pleasures that make us feel “good”. Cheat days are a common protocol for dieter’s and workout regimens, and making something unconditionally better than it is in the majority of cases is a common mistake most people make. Chocolate is no different.

People cling to the health benefits of chocolate like socks to a cotton shirt fresh out of the dryer. The reason is obvious – if I can keep my guilty little pleasure, guilt free, by attaching a health benefit to it then I can eat it all the time with reasons that will hold up in court!

The fact is that chocolate does have health benefits. However, the process of denaturing it so that it is nothing more than a high glycemic and phlegm-inducing treat is the issue I have with calling it “healthy”.

Chocolate – AKA Cacao

In its purest form, cacao (raw chocolate) is very bitter. So bitter in fact that it’s hard to believe that the chocolate you commonly enjoy actually contains any cacao in it.

Cacao has a host of benefits including more antioxidants than blueberries, red wine, or green tea. It also contains many beneficial trace elements including magnesium, a common deficiency, especially in women (coincidentally, there is anecdotal evidence that the reason women crave chocolate is due to low magnesium levels). It is also known to help with the cardiovascular system, weight loss, and mood.

Commercial Chocolate – AKA Processed, Destroyed, and Refined Cacao

Most of the benefits found in chocolate are destroyed by cooking, processing and refining. Studies have actually shown that dairy products (milk chocolate – the most common form) actually block the absorption of the antioxidants in chocolate. Yet most of the commercially made chocolate contains very low levels of cacao compared to other ingredients like sugar, milk ingredients, hydrogenated oils, and fillers.

So much for your guilty pleasure holding up in court. Even Lionel Hutz could crack this case, and in his own words it would be “the greatest case of false advertising I’ve seen since I sued the movie The Never Ending Story”.

Then Came “Dark Chocolate”

In an effort to support the chocolate makers of the world, the media started touting the benefits of chocolate, especially in the “dark” form. Dark chocolate was said to have more health benefits than its “lighter” counterpart, even though most probably never really knew why. Nor did they care – they were back on the wagon cheering the media on!

In reality, dark chocolate was meant to be chocolate without milk solids added. Common terms include bitter sweet and semi-sweet, as the higher the cacao content, the more bitter the bar.

However, as it is with any health claims big companies love to jump on board and give their marketing department the ability to do what they do best – capitalize and mislead the public.

So what is your take away?

Do your homework, and read your labels. If you truly love chocolate, but want the health benefits, get used to a slightly more bitter taste that you will get after you ensure the ingredients are at least 70% cacao, and it contains no milk ingredients, emulsifiers, and flavors.

Then, and only then, can you brag about your addiction being healthier with no need for Matlock to defend your case.

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