- A 100 gram 70-80% cocoa containing chocolate bar contains lots of basic nutrition:
- 11 grams of fiber
- 67% of the RDA for Iron
- 58% of the RDA for Magnesium
- 89% of the RDA for Copper
- 98% of the RDA for Manganese
- Chocolate is high in trace minerals – This bar also has plenty of potassium, phosphorous, zinc and selenium. If you purchase a chocolate bar with low sugar, you can also count on getting these nutrients without spiking your glucose levels.
- Dark chocolate has a high ORAC value – The ORAC value of any food is a composite score suggesting the total antioxidant value of any food. It stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. The more antioxidants a food contains, the more it is able to scavenge free radicals from the body. Fewer free radicals translates to less disease and slower rates of aging. Dark chocolate rates over 40,000 on the ORAC scale. Only a handful of foods rank higher, like ground cloves or garlic.
- Raises HDL and protects LDL against oxidation – The high level of flavonoids (antioxidants) in cacao used to make chocolate are heart-protective. It can also lower “bad” or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. If you want to get the most out of your chocolate experience, though, opt for organic chocolate, as it has undergone less processing than conventionally-grown chocolate.
- Chocolate protects your skin from aging and sun damage – Due to the high levels of antioxidants and phytonutrients in chocolate, the skin is protected from the sun’s damaging UV rays. Research published on the National Institute of Health site explains that subjects who regularly consumed 20 grams every day over the course of three months experienced less sun damage than people who did not. Though it might melt in your beach bag, add a high-cacao chocolate bar to your diet to enjoy some protected time in the sun.
- Brain functioning is boosted – There are an astounding number of studies that prove that cacao improves cognitive functioning—in people of all ages—but also even in the elderly, who are more prone to dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases. Again, it’s the antioxidants that come to the rescue, promoting brain health and reduced oxidative stress, even as we grow into our golden years.
- Decreases inflammation – When we eat high cacao level chocolate bars, we get to experience reduced inflammation. The bioactive compounds in chocolate change the inflammatory response in our bodies, which is linked to cancer, heart disease, Crohn’s, arthritis and a number of other diseases.
- Chocolate likely prevents cancer – Likely because of its high levels of polyphenols and antioxidants, and the anti-inflammatory action this causes on our cells, eating chocolate can prevent against numerous cancers, just like eating turmeric, cruciferous vegetables and greens can. Many studies also show that chocolate can induce apoptosis (suicide) of cancerous cells.
- Alters our intestinal flora – In numerous animal and in vitro studies, chocolate has been shown to alter the intestinal microbiome, meaning that our gut flora is changed for the better when we eat it. The healthier our guts are, the healthier we are, since the intestinal tract and digestive system is responsible for, some say, 70 percent of our immunity.
- Promotes a healthy reproductive system and fertility – As if chocolate wasn’t amazing enough, it also supports healthy reproduction and reproductive organs, which leads to higher fertility in both human and animal studies. Cacao also supports a growing fetus in a mother’s body as it provides high levels of important nutrients needed for a baby’s maturation.
How to Source Good Chocolate
There are good and bad brands of chocolate, based on how the manufacturer treats its growers, where it is grown, how it is grown (is it grown with pesticides or grown organically?), etc.
Look Out for Dutching
If your chocolate says, “processed with alkali, then it has been ‘dutched.’ This is a way of processing the chocolate that can harm the high level of antioxidants and nutrients that are naturally in it.
Search for Organic and Fair Trade
Companies like Nestle have been accused of child-slave labor and ill treatment of workers of chocolate plantations. If you purchase chocolate that is both organic and fair-trade, you are more assured that the workers are not being exposed to chemical toxins used by the agricultural industry (and neither are you), and that they also pay workers fair wages, as well as provide them favorable working conditions.
The Higher the “Dark” Factor, the Better (More Antioxidants)
For many people, 70-90% dark chocolate is an acquired taste, as it doesn’t resemble a milk chocolate bar filled with sugar that is highly processed—sadly, what most people have been eating most of their lives. However, if you can start with a 50-70% dark chocolate bar and work your way up to 70-90% dark chocolate, checking the labels for sugar content and keeping it below 5-10 grams, you’ve got yourself a super-loaded chocolate bar that is high in antioxidants. Indulge! If it says “Super Dark” and is also organic and fair trade, this is even better, because the antioxidant levels are likely very high.
Finding a good dark chocolate bar can be like finding the perfect wine, but once you’ve honed in on a few favorite brands, the benefits of adding this sweet treat to your diet are almost endless.