Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz once said, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt,” – and oh how right he was.
When warmed, it is smooth, like dark flowing silk. When whipped, it is light, a cocoa cloud. When baked, it is melt-in-your-mouth moist. However you like your chocolate; creamy or dense, light or heavy, sprinkled with sea salt or crowded with cashews, it is always a treat.
Chocolate is rich, bursting with flavour; it’s sweet, heavenly and… healthy.
But not all chocolate. In this case, bitter is better and the darker you go, the more your body will thank you.
Truly, there are a multitude of reports on the health benefits of dark chocolate. According to studies, this bittersweet treat is loaded with nutrients, including fiber, iron, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and selenium.
It also contains the fabulous favourite… drumroll please… antioxidants! Which, as we know and love, may help to prevent our cells from the damage of free radicals (those nasty little pests that threaten all kinds of diseases and illness – no thank you!). One study actually revealed that dark chocolate may have more powerful antioxidants than fruits, such as berries. What a happy thought indeed, not only is dark chocolate healthy, but it’s right up there next to superfoods like blueberries.
To make matters even better… studies show that dark chocolate may be magical for your skin! The strong antioxidants, like flavonols, found in cocoa may improve blood flow to the skin, increase skin density and hydration, AND might even help to protect our delicate skin from the damage of the unforgiving sun (aka, the benefactress of burns, wrinkles, and a premature loss of elasticity).
So as you can see, there are numerous benefits to swamping your stockpile of milk chocolate munchies, and trading them in for something a little more wholesome for your body.
And yet, this is easier said than done. Growing up, many of us were inundated with floods of super sweet milk chocolate. Our stomachs were swept away by the deluge of these saccharine sweets. Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day became the D-Days of blood sugar battles for luckless livers. Every treat, truffle, chip, bar and bunny fed our addiction and left us wanting MORE. The sad truth is that we quickly became accustomed to these sickly sweet flavours, and nothing could satisfy our candy coated cavities but bars of blissful milk chocolate.
But that was then, and this is now. The older we get the more important our everyday health choices become. Our metabolisms slow, wrinkles peak out, and pretty soon our arteries aren’t so empty. So do yourself a favour and get out of that milk chocolate maze now. The next time you go shopping for chocolate, buy only bars with a label specifying “dark.” I personally prefer those marked with at least 72% cocoa, but once you adapt to the intense new flavours, try to push your limits and go even darker. There are a plethora of dark chocolate bars sold with cocoa up to 80… 86… even 99%! And as you might imagine, as the percentages grow, so too do the health benefits. Please keep in mind however, these chocolate bars come loaded with calories and still contain sugar, so less is more. A square or two a day is enough to satisfy your cocoa cravings and provide you with plenty of health benefits.
One final note on this delectable dessert you should know… almost all dark chocolate is free of dairy and thus entirely vegan! There are a few exceptions to this, but the higher the percentage, the safer the chocolate. If you do happen to be lactose intolerant or vegan like moi, then before purchasing, be sure to check the labels and remember, like all foods, the fewer the ingredients, the better.
So go ahead, indulge in the dark! Such deep shades of coffee coloured cocoa were not made to be admired, but to be devoured. Sink your teeth into these rich velvety smooth squares, and enjoy.
My Top 5 Favourite Dark Chocolate Brands
- Giddy YoYo
- Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
- Lindt (78% is nice, but the 99% is my heaven)