The festive season is approaching once again, which means an abundance of love, laughter and above all, good food and drink. Regardless of having the best intentions to avoid festive delicacies, it is more often easier said than done to indulge, leaving one with a lot of guilt and regret when the New Year rolls in and you can no longer fit into your favourite pair of jeans.
Luckily for us, the chocolate industry has experienced a significant shift towards fair, organic trade over the past decade that has noticeably lessened our favourite sweet treat’s impact on not only the world but our waistlines and general health as well. With the vast amount of raw chocolate options available on the market, the bar for green and healthy chocolate that can form part of a balanced lifestyle has once again been raised.
Raw chocolate, also known as cacao, contains no over-processed cheap filler ingredients that are the bane of any health enthusiast’s existence. The cacao is being expertly fused with everything from coconut oil to raw honey as well as nuts and berries to create delicious raw treats fit for a place in even the most stringent of eating plans. Cacao is an immensely complex food with an excess of 300 chemically identifiable compounds and is even said to be richer in antioxidants than green tea or acai, making it an acceptable inclusion when maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle. The nutrients found in raw chocolate have the following health benefits:
Theobromine, flavanols and other components prevalent in cacao may have the ability to lower blood pressure and enhance your circulation through the promotion of strength, health and dilation of blood vessels. Flavanols are packed with antioxidants which, together with the essential vitamins and minerals found in the cacao can support healthy heart functioning by promoting blood flow and lowering LDL cholesterol.
High levels of antioxidants can protect the body from a build-up of free radicals from pollution, sun exposure, cigarette smoking etc. which can damage healthy bone tissue and even lead to cancer and heart disease. Cacao delivers a fair amount of dietary fibre in each serving which supports digestion while the cacao itself stimulates the body’s production of digestive enzymes.
A number of compounds found in cacao such as alkaloids, beta-carotene, leucine, lipase, lysine and protein all work together to improve mental and physical health. A good example of this is how theobromine assists in stimulating the central nervous system, relax muscles and dilate the blood vessels giving the body a boost of energy. Other chemicals found in cacao helps to increase serotonin production improving mood and reducing the risk of depression.
There are countless ways that you can incorporate raw chocolate into your everyday diet. You can snack on whole cacao beans or add raw cacao nibs to your favourite snack mixes. If you do not like the bitter taste of the beans/nibs, opt for raw cacao powder that you can easily use in a variety of guilt-free recipes.
Jane Sandwood is a professional freelance writer and editor with over 10 years’ experience across many different areas. With a background in nutrition and time spent working as a life coach, Jane is passionate about food and making it a key part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. When Jane isn’t writing, she is busy cooking for her large family and testing out new recipes.