Healthy Beginnings

The Health Benefits of Chocolate: A Piece of Dark Chocolate a Day Keeps the Doctor Away… Sort of.

It’s February, and that means we – “the media” – tend to salivate over the latest and greatest trends and research of the health benefits of chocolate. After all, we need some validation that our seasonal love for and obsession with this sweet treat doesn’t add notches to our belts or clog our arteries.

So, is chocolate truly healthy for us? Well, it depends on the type of chocolate we decide to enjoy. Here’s the reality – raw or minimally processed cacao or cocoa are healthy superfoods, but the high-calorie chocolate bars that contain these ingredients aren’t necessarily good for us.

“Chocolate is the candy that’s made by adding sugar, milk and other ingredients to cocoa powder. Those ingredients also add fat and sugar, which counteract some of cocoa’s health benefits.”1

For example, a Hershey’s chocolate bar has more additives than an unsweetened, organic fair trade 100 percent cacao bar – processed chocolate is much different from cacao, which is the purest form of chocolate, and has an extremely bitter taste.

“If you don’t have sugar, it tastes awful… Like, acidic bitter,” Krysta Bea Jackson, owner of Sugar Love Chocolates, winced.

Sugar Love Chocolates, a Reno-based chocolatier that provides unique chocolate creations, uses real ingredients sourced from France, Belgium, Colombia and other parts of the world to create imaginative and distinctive treats. A few of Sugar Love’s creations include the 56 percent French Dark Truffle and Strawberry Balsamic.

While Krysta shares that her chocolate creations are made with ingredients such as sugar and cream, she works to incorporate whole foods and local ingredients into eat treat.

“I don’t do raw chocolate because I don’t think raw chocolate tastes good,” she said. “So people who are really into raw are not going to enjoy stuff that I create. I do tend to believe in real ingredients.”

Cacao is much less processed than cocoa powder or modern chocolate. Store-bought chocolate and cocoa – which is derived from cacao seeds – tend to have added sugar, milk solids, butter, added flavors and a plethora of other ingredients that we can’t pronounce (such as polyglycerol polyricinoleate – a yellow gooey emulsifier).

“In the U.S., you can put additives in your chocolate and still call it chocolate, particularly (paraffin) wax,” Krysta said. “… Chocolate has been one of two things – either it’s a sin and you should never eat it, or it’s something like a Hersey’s bar or a Snickers bar… There’s not a lot of respect for it as a food. And just like all foods, it has its place.”

Cacao (and minimally-processed cocoa) has earned a place among other superfoods, as it boasts antioxidant properties – cacao is packed with phenolic phytochemicals and flavonoids, which protect your cells against damage from free radicals and help the cardiovascular system by lowering cholesterol, reducing inflammation and preventing blood clots.1,2

Scientists are also learning that cocoa may be healthy for the brain, as “researchers at Harvard Medical School found that older adults who drank two cups of cocoa a day for 30 days had improved blood flow to parts of their brain needed for memory and thinking.”1

Although Krysta carefully selects the ingredients she uses, she plans to begin sourcing and roasting her own cacao beans, right here in Reno. She wants to learn the chemistry behind roasting, and find more direct sources of the cacao. Her goal is to continue to keep the ingredients in her chocolate creations as real as possible.

If you’re looking to indulge in a piece of chocolate daily – or on a special occasion with your Valentine – make it dark. The higher the cacao or cocoa content, the better it is for your health (look for bars with 70 percent or more).1 Also, make efforts to find unique chocolates that are made locally with real, pronounceable ingredients. Although a few pieces of chocolate may not help you ward off heart disease, they will please your taste buds and give you a boost of antioxidants.

Sugar Love Chocolates offers simple yet unique ingredients for the chocolate lover. If you’re looking for a minimally-processed, sweet treat for your loved one, head to Sugar Love to customize your own chocolate box and feel less guilty eating it.

For more information on Sugar Love Chocolates, visit www.SugarLoveChocolates.com.

References:

  1. http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/chocolate-pros-and-cons-of-this-sweet-treat

 

  1. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/benefits-of-chocolate-heart-health