Dark Chocolate Goodness

Chocolate (Theobroma Cacao) bean is composed of lipids, sterols, fibre, minerals, and flavonoids. Often we eat it adulterated with many other substances, most with very little therapeutic value. However raw cocoa or dark chocolate in their purer forms can be very beneficial in sweet cravings, dental decay, cardiovascular disease, longevity, insulin sensitivity, immunity, PMT, and preventing cancer.

The lipids include oleic acid (that same as in olive oil) stearic and palmitic acids (which don’t raise cholesterol) and linoleic acid. The sterols (sitosterol, stigmasterol) improve blood lipids and compete with cholesterol for absorption. Chocolate contains magnesium, chromium, zinc, copper, and other minerals, one of the highest concentrations of minerals in a natural food. 85% dark chocolate has a low glycaemic index (GI) of 30 and reduces insulin resistance.

Dark chocolate is good for cardiovascular disease as it reduces lipids, reduces platelet aggregation, is anti-inflammatory, reduces LDLs, increases HDLs, reduces cholesterol and plaque buildup. It also normalises platelet stickiness like aspirin, garlic and green tea do. The polyphenols reduce blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic as effectively as medication.

Raw Cacao beans contain 10 grams of flavonol antioxidants per 100 grams. Research has also demonstrated that the antioxidants in cacao are highly stable and easily available to human metabolism. The ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture to measure the ability of antioxidants to absorb free radicals, which normally cause cell and tissue damage. The higher the ORAC score, the higher the level of antioxidants present in the food. The top ten ORAC scoring foods are raw cocoa powder, raw cacoa nibs, roasted cacoa, goji berries, Acai Berries, dark chocolate, prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries and kale.

Dark chocolate helps prevent cancer especially in the breast, bowel, prostate, breast, mouth and lung. Longevity is also enhanced.

Chocolate is the number one craved food, although it is not physically addictive. Cacao is a great source of serotonin, dopamine, anandamide and phenylethylamine (PEA), four well-studied neurotransmitters, which are associated with feelings of well being and help alleviate depression. Both PEA and Anandamide (the bliss chemical) are found in abundance in the brains of happy people and are particularly released when we are feeling happy. Cacao also contains monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO Inhibitors) that keep neurotransmitters in the bloodstream for longer without being broken down.

Chocolate is cognition enhancing, 15 minutes after eating 85gm of dark chocolate studies show better memory, better impulse control, increased peripheral brain perfusion, so dark chocolate is good for dementia and stroke.

Chocolate influences neurotransmitters which play important roles in the regulation of emotion, mood, cognition and sleep, promoting wakefulness whilst increasing arousal, alertness and reducing fatigue.

To live a long and healthy life ensure good folate levels, plenty of fish, dark chocolate, tomato, spinach, olive oil, sunlight and exercise.

When buying chocolate: the higher the percentage cocoa the better, at least 50%, avoid animal fats, and go organic as the plants have more protective chemicals. Lindt supports no child slave labour. Have you dark chocolate, raw cocoa, cocoa beans or nibs in the morning for the best effects rather than later in the day where they may affect your ability to fall asleep.

Samantha Warner Naturopath

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