Today is Valentine’s Day, and it’s no secret that this holiday is filled with lots of sweet indulgences. Heart-shaped chocolate boxes and decadent chocolate desserts are just about everywhere this time of year, causing many of us to wonder if any of these chocolaty treats are actually good for us.
Research shows that chocolate can indeed have powerful health benefits when it is consumed in its natural raw state. That’s because cacao, which is chocolate minus its natural fat (cocoa butter) and added sweeteners, is packed with tons of antioxidants and vitamins.
Here’s a look at a few of the healthy ingredients found in chocolate:
Antioxidants: Chocolate contains flavanol, a naturally occurring antioxidant with many heart healthy benefits including lowering blood pressure and reducing blood clotting. Besides flavanol, chocolate also contains many more powerful antioxidants, and according to health experts, may contain up to fifteen times more of these cell-protecting antioxidant compounds than blueberries!
Essential vitamins and minerals: Cacao beans are loaded with many essential vitamins and minerals the body needs to thrive. These include vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, E along with magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese.
When compared to other foods, cacao contains one of the highest amounts of magnesium—an essential mineral required by the body to maintain healthy muscle and nerve function, build strong bones, and keep our immune system strong.
Mood-boosting properties: There’s a reason chocolate makes us smile. Resveratrol, an antioxidant found chocolate among other products contains mental health benefits including boosting levels of endorphins and serotonin in the brain helping to improve our mood.
If you’re a chocolate lover or just looking to boost your health by adding it to your diet, then just remember that it’s best to avoid overly processed chocolate that contains artificial flavoring and sweeteners.
Dr. Andrew Weil’s preferred way to get the health benefits of chocolate is by enjoying an ounce or two of dark chocolate that’s 70 percent cacao several times a week.
How sweet it is!