For all of you chocolate lovers out there, today, December 13th is “National Cocoa Day”! Yes, believe it or not there is a day for chocolate and there are health benefits that come along with eating it. No, I am not giving you full license to go on a chocolate binge, but some chocolate, specifically dark chocolate and unprocessed cocoa powder made from the cocao tree, can do you some nutritional good.
To date there is no history behind “National Cocoa Day”. It is unclear as to who and what started this day, but lucky for us it exists. Why wouldn’t we want to celebrate the single most important ingredient in the most loved treat?
Before I get into the health benefits of chocolate, it is important to know which types of chocolate to choose. Milk chocolate does not make the cut! Sure, it is delicious, but it is also highly processed and loaded with added fat and sugar. When you are looking to splurge, go for a piece of dark chocolate with a cocoa percentage of at least 75. Most chocolate bars contain minimal amounts of pure cocoa. Just remember, the higher the percentage of cocoa, the healthier the chocolate. As the temperature begins to drop, warm up with a cup of hot cocoa, made from 100% cocoa powder.
So what can chocolate do for you? Cocoa is rich in flavanoids and antioxidants which are disease fighting agents. They protect your body against harmful free radicals that cause cellular damage, and later on chronic illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. These elements also prevent aging and skin damage leaving you looking younger than ever. One cup of cocoa has about triple the amount of antioxidants than a cup of green tea.
Ever wonder why you gravitate towards a box of chocolate when you are feeling sad? Well, cocoa also acts as mood enhancer. The presence of phenylethylamine in cocoa acts similar to an amphetamine and has positive effects on your mood. Cocoa has been seen to relieve depression and stress and to increase a person’s energy and frame of mind.
Now you don’t have to feel guilty every time you give in to your chocolate craving,. Instead, you can remind yourself that you are improving your health while enjoying a scrumptious treat. Remember, choose a chocolate bar with a high cocoa percentage. And, most importantly, like everything, moderation is key.
What are some of your favorite recipes containing cocoa?