Today, February 1 is National Dark Chocolate day!
Who doesn’t love a silky, smooth piece of chocolate?
We hear all the time about the many health benefits to consuming chocolate, unfortunately, some people make the mistake of thinking a Hershey’s bar is healthy! Sadly, I must be the bearer of bad news, not all chocolate is created equal. As much as we wish that hot fudge sundae would do us some good, that is only wishful thinking.
Cacao, cocoa, and chocolate…what’s the difference? It can be confusing to sort it all out, but there is a big difference in the way each form of chocolate is processed and produced.
Cacao comes from the whole cacao bean. It can take on the look of cocoa or even chocolate chips but it is very bitter. Cacao has very little processing to it and that is what makes this the healthiest form of chocolate. It’s full of natural anti-inflammatory properties, and antioxidants that help remove toxins from our body. It’s full of magnesium which is good for our bones, blood pressure and heart health. Cacao powder comes from the unroasted beans. In the process, the fat is removed but the enzymes remain intact. You can still count on some healthy fat from cacao powder, along with some fiber and protein!
Cocoa is a processed powder from the cacao bean after the bean has been roasted and the butter has been removed. It is processed at very temperatures which lowers all the great nutritional value we gain from the raw cacao bean. Buying cocoa powder from the grocery store means you are getting extra added sugar and fats. There are some health benefits from cocoa powder but the quality is reduced.
Chocolate is derived from cacao or cocoa. Milk chocolate contains more fat and sugar than it’s bittersweet cousin, dark chocolate. For obvious reasons, dark chocolate is your better choice, and the higher the cocoa content, the better it is for you.
One more thing…white chocolate; it’s not even really chocolate so don’t even waste your time. The only benefit from white chocolate is the sugar rush and insulin spike you’ll feel in the short term.
So, how do we get more healthy chocolate in our diet?
The easiest way is to eat a little dark chocolate every day. Make sure the cocoa content is above 70%. The higher the better.
Add cacao nibs to trail mix or sprinkle on your morning oatmeal or in your green smoothie for a little added crunch.
Use a coffee press to brew your cacao powder as a great substitute to your morning joe. You can kick the coffee habit and get some valuable health benefits too.
Use cacao powder in your baking. You don’t get the same health benefits but every little bit helps.
Make your own hot chocolate by adding a tablespoon of raw cacao powder to a dairy free milk. Sweeten with a little natural sweetener and vanilla.
Blend a little cacao powder into your daily smoothie, for a rich added treat.
Whatever else you do today, indulge in a little dark chocolate to celebrate a healthier you! Who knew you could do that with a little piece of chocolate?