Cheers to Healthful Chocolate!

Dark chocolate and raw cacao are packed with brain and body benefits, but only if you buy the right thing.

| January / February 2018

  • Dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa has several health benefits.
    Photo by Pixabay

The cacao plant, or Theobroma cacao — “the food of the gods” — is as rich with nutrients as it is divine, with primary benefits deriving from its potent antioxidant compounds, particularly flavonols. Chocolate has been studied extensively and is known to reduce stress and contribute to stable blood sugar levels. Its flavonols can help improve blood flow to the brain, reduce blood pressure, prevent arteries from clogging and increase brain processing speed. The high magnesium (a mineral most of us are deficient in) content in chocolate promotes heart health, in addition to relaxation and healthy sleep. The healthful oleic acid in cacao beans can also help improve your good-to-bad cholesterol ratio.

When choosing chocolate for its health benefits, make sure to buy only dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa (at least 60 or 70 percent, but the higher, the better). Be on the lookout for preservatives, fillers, stabilizers and tons of sugar, as well as inferior brands that replace nutritious cocoa butter with less-expensive fats, such as soybean oil. Many widely available brands, even at fancy health-food stores, contain these unnecessary additives. All that bar of chocolate really needs is cocoa butter and sweetener, plus any featured real food ingredients like vanilla, nuts or sea salt. Be aware that milk chocolate, Dutch-processed chocolate and white chocolate do not carry the same health benefits.

To get the most nutritious form of chocolate available, you’ll need to buy unsweetened raw cacao from a health-food store or online. Raw cacao is a minimally processed form of cacao beans and is somewhat bitter. When cacao beans are roasted and sweetened, you get chocolate. The chocolate-making process pumps up the flavor and removes some (not all) of its nutritious compounds. Raw cacao nibs are ripe with antioxidants, and make a great addition to smoothies featuring bananas and nuts. Cacao powder can also be used instead of the less nutritious cocoa powder in almost any baking recipe because there’s usually some form of sweetener to balance it out.

In the commercial cocoa industry, you get what you pay for. Focus on quality over quantity when it comes to chocolate, and always look for responsibly harvested and produced chocolate with a Fair Trade Certified label. Some of my favorite chocolate products are Equal Exchange’s Panama Extra Dark Chocolate Bar; Alter Eco’s Salted Caramel Truffles; Anthony’s Goods Cocoa Nibs; and Navitas Organics’ Cacao Powder. All are organic — and incredible! 

Chocolate Lover’s Tart Recipe
Bittersweet Brownies Recipe
Indulgent 3-Layer Cake Recipe

Adapted from The Power of Superfoods by Tabitha Grace.

1/10/2018 1:59:43 PM

Cocoa nibs and cacao powder are also great in smoothies, oatmeal etc.. I LOVE adding it to recipes. Thanks for sharing - Great information! TW @

Subscribe today and save 58%

Get the latest on Healthy Living and Natural Beauty!

Mother Earth LivingRedefine beauty and embrace holistic living with Mother Earth Living by your side. Each issue  provides you with easy, hands-on ways to connect your life with the natural world -- from eating seasonally to culinary and medicinal uses of herbs; from aromatherapy and DIY cosmetics to yoga and beyond. Start your journey to holistic living today and you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $19.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $24.95.

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter