Ode to Chocolate

Eat chocolate. Wait! Before you get up and go grab a Snickers, allow me to be more specific. Few foods on the planet have the influence on society that chocolate has. Not only is it delicious but it does amazing things for our bodies and minds. Bear in mind that not all chocolate is created equal. In order to enjoy the best that chocolate has to offer you be sure to select a high quality dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has as wide a range of tastes as coffees or wines. Where it’s grown and how it’s prepared can greatly change the finished product. But wait a minute. I’m getting ahead of myself. This is a blog about the health benefits of chocolate not an ode to chocolate.

Let’s start with what dark chocolate does for our body:

The cocoa plant, like many dark fruits and vegetables, is choc full of anti-oxidants. These are powerful players in keeping our bodies healthy especially in a world with so many environmental toxins. Studies have shown that a diet rich in anti-oxidants has a better chance of fighting off heart disease, cancers, excess weight and even signs of aging. Now, I don’t recommend getting all of your anti-oxidants from chocolate, but a quality chocolate with a high cocoa content is a great way to add a little zip to your healthy diet.

What dark chocolate does for our brains:

There was a clip on the news recently about a study that linked the rate of dark chocolate consumption by country with the number of Nobel Laureates that country produced. Now, there are obviously a number of other factors to consider and even the man who conducted the study admitted it’s more likely a combination of circumstances than dark chocolate consumption alone that caused this phenomenon, but that does not change the fact that cocoa has a powerful effect on our brains. Ever wonder why it is that chocolate can be so satisfying in times of crisis? The bean contains natural stimulants such as caffeine and theobromine* that cause our brains to work more efficiently. Not only does this treat help us think more clearly, but it literally makes us feel better.  Cocoa contains and triggers the release of a number of chemicals that have a direct effect on our emotions. One of these chemicals, phenylethylamine, is the same chemical that’s released when we fall in love. Now don’t drown your sorrows in chocolate, but maybe the next time you find yourself in a mental muddle, take a five minute break and a bite of chocolate and then try to figure it out.

The reason dark chocolate has more health benefits than milk chocolate is that darker the bar is, the higher the cocoa content will be and the lower the amount of sugar and other maybe less beneficial ingredients. Just the same, a chocolate bar with 72% cocoa will be better for you than one with 50% cocoa. Check the ingredients for preservatives or any artificial flavors or colors before you buy. When looking in the store for a quality bar of chocolate you might notice all the little symbols saying organic or fair trade. I cannot finish this blog without mentioning this. Fair trade certified means that the chocolate bar you’re buying was made and imported without the use of slaves, child labor, or under payed laborers. Unfortunately, because the demand for cocoa is so high it has become one of the most abusive industries in the world. It may cost you an extra dollar for the bar that says fair trade, but that extra dollar is ensuring that the people who worked to bring you that treat are compensated and given safe working conditions. In short, that dollar is your vote to make the world a little more fair.

So, go get some chocolate. It really will make everything better.

*For various reasons including these stimulant ingredients it is recommended that chocolate be consumed in moderation.

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