Is chocolate healthy for you? The answer: chocolate is healthy for you. Yes, you read that right…chocolate is healthy for you. To understand this statement, we need to identify what chocolate exactly is though.
What Is Chocolate?
To understand why chocolate is healthy for us, we need to understand what chocolate is in the first place. Chocolate has its humble origins by growing on a cacao tree as huge seeds that are called cacao pods. Therefore chocolate by its very nature is vegan and plant based, a little known fact.
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How Chocolate Is Made
Once the cacao pods on the cacao tree are ripe, they are harvested off of the tree and broken into with a tool, usually a machete. Each pod will contain about 25-50 beans that will be collected and then fermented to start the creation the cocoa flavor that we all love. Yes you read that right: chocolate is a naturally fermented food as well.
Once the fermentation process is complete, the beans are dried for anywhere between one to two weeks. After drying, the beans are then roasted, which is a major contributor to the smell and taste of cocoa. The outer shell of the roasted bean is removed, leaving us with a cacao nib or cocoa nib.
Cacao nibs are then ground into a paste known as chocolate liquor. Mix in cocoa butter (fat extracted from a cacao bean), sugar, and a little bit of vanilla, and you have yourself typical dark chocolate bar.
So I Can Eat Chocolate Bars All Day?
The short answer is NO, especially when talking about the typical chocolate bar that most people think of when they think of chocolate. These bars should not even be classified as chocolate as a minority amount of their contents even contain chocolate. They are mostly sugars and refined oils combined with milk and a small amount of actual chocolate, yet labeled as “chocolate”.
How Is Chocolate Healthy Then?
Chocolate in its earliest and naturally occurring form that we can relate to as chocolate is a cacao nib. The nutritional content tends to be ruined when mixed with a bunch of sugar and refined products. Cacao nibs are extremely healthy and are considered vegan, vegetarian, dairy free, keto, and fermented. This is because they have not been mixed with any other additives and still maintain their origin from the cacao pod growing on the cacao tree.
Cacao Nib Nutritional Profile
Let’s take a look at the nutritional profile of a single serving of cacao nibs (approximately 1 oz) and see why they are considered a healthy food:
|Total Carbs||10 g|
One ounce of cacao nibs contain 0 grams of sugar, 0 grams of cholesterol, 0 grams of sodium, only 1 net carbohydrate, and a whopping 9 grams of fiber! Containing 0 grams of sugar and only 1 net carbohydrate, cacao nibs are perfect for anybody looking for a low carb / low sugar / ketogenic or paleo lifestyle.
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Cacao Nib Vitamins, Minerals, & Antioxidants
Cacao nibs don’t just shine in their nutritional profile, but also with the number of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they contain (per 1 oz serving).
|Manganese||0.5 mg||27% DV|
|Copper||0.5 mg||25% DV|
|Magnesium||64 mg||16% DV|
|Phosphorus||90 mg||9% DV|
|Iron||1.1 mg||6% DV|
|Potassium||210 mg||6% DV|
|Zinc||0.9 mg||6% DV|
|Selenium||2.1 mcg||3% DV|
|Vitamin K||2.4 mcg||3% DV|
Decreases Risk of Cancer
Cacao nibs are packed with antioxidants, specifically flavanoids. They are so packed with flavanoids that they actually outrank every other ingredient on the planet by weight to flavanoid ratio. Flavanoids protect cells from damage from free radical molecules, therefore decreasing the risks of many types of cancers.
Decreases Risk of Heart Disease
Due to the high number of flavanoids present in cacao nibs, they are a very effective food in fighting heart disease. Flavanoids have been shown in multiple studies to decrease risks of heart disease and improve heart health overall.
Cacao nibs have also been proven to have an anti-inflammatory effect on people the regularly consume them due to the specific flavanols contained in them. Therefore, this makes cacao nibs a perfect addition to anybody looking to lower inflammation levels overall or anybody following a low inflammation diet / lifestyle.
Decreases Blood Pressure
The specific flavanoid antioxidants in cacao nibs called flavanols increase nitric oxide production in the body. Multiple studies have shown that nitric oxide widens blood vessels within the body, naturally decreasing blood pressure.
Cacao nibs have also been proven to have a positive effect on cholesterol, both lowering bad LDL cholesterol levels and raising good HDL cholesterol levels. This is due to the contents of theobromine and various polyphenols that are present in cacao nibs.
Increases Brain Function
A study from 2018 found that chocolate not only decrease cellular genotoxicity, but also enhanced neuroplasticity, the brain’s function of being able to organize itself in different ways after injury, disease, or age. The same study also found chocolate to improve the metabolism of both lipids and glucose within the body.
It is time to redefine what “chocolate” is, and to start recognizing that real chocolate is naturally vegan, plant based, and one of the world’s most effective super-foods when it comes to all of the health benefits that it brings to our bodies. Look for cacao nibs next time you are in a grocery store and start enjoying one of nature’s healthy snacks!