Chocolate, and peoples love of chocolate, go back thousands and thousands of years. The Aztecs some 4-5000 years ago were grinding up cocoa beans and combining them with other ingredients to make drinks and porridges. Even the name of 'cocoa' comes from the ancient Nahuatl language meaning "bitter water"
Clearly the use of chocolate has evolved into the modern era but a standard drink of hot chocolate shares similar traits with those early beverages.
And just like Miley Cyrus there are good and bad versions of the same thing..
There is chocolate we want to avoid and then there is the chocolate that not only still can be considered an indulgence but also contains numerous health benefits.
This good type of chocolate we are looking at is the dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa solids. ideally 85-90% is the variety you want to shoot for. Chocolate of this type has a distinct bitter/rich taste that after awhile feels vastly superior to sugary milk chocolate.
So what health benefits are we looking at in regards to this chocolate? First off there is relevant nutrition such as fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, zinc and selenium.
Next is probably one of the best reasons to eat dark chocolate; Its high antioxidant content. The measurement for antioxidant activity in foods is called the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. Basically researches put some bad free radicals against foods to see how the foods antioxidants can 'disarm' them.
A few studies have shown that dark chocolate contained higher antioxidant activity, polyphenols and flavanols than other fruits being tested, including the powerhouse blueberries and acai berries.
Foods rich in antioxidants help our bodies fight off free radicals which can cause dna damage, premature aging, certain cancers and inflammation.
Dark chocolate has also been observed to mildly reduce blood pressure and improve blood flow. It also has been seen to lower the susceptibility of LDL (the bad cholesterol) to oxidative damage and increasing the good cholesterol (HDL) while also improving insulin sensitivity.
Along with all these positive benefits dark chocolate also has the ability to protect your skin against the sun and improve brain function. Quite a lot from one little bean.
This of course does not mean you can eat chocolate until it comes out your ears..Dark chocolate still contains sugars and calories that need to be carefully watched if you are undertaking a weight loss program and are trying to keep insulin levels down. But the darker the chocolate the less sugar it contains and some increases in insulin sensitivity as mentioned above can come along with its consumption.
And again we are talking about dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids. Most of the chocolate on the market is garbage. Milk chocolate i'm afraid falls under that category. But if you are to start eating a few squares of dark chocolate here and there you will find you will almost be repelled by the overly sugary, unnatural choices that are a masquerading as chocolate out there.
I always keep a few bars on hand for its great taste, nutritional benefits and as a peace offering when i've accidentally "ignored" a call because I was busy checking my fantasy football league roster..