Saturday 15 October 2016

Is chocolate GOOD/BAD for your health?


We all love chocolate. There are few foods that people feel passionate about. A passion that goes beyond a love for the "sweetness" of most candies or desserts: after all, few people crave caramel, whipped cream, or bubble gum. Chocolate is, well, different.

Recently health nuts have been hailing chocolate as a secret superfood – but it's just not the sweet treat in the way you know it.

Cacao is chocolate in its purest form, specifically it is the bean-like seeds from which cocoa, cocoa butter and chocolate are made.

It dates back to 1900 BC and the Mayans even valued it so highly they used cocoa beans as currency. Raw cacao is much less processed than traditional bars and it's also packed with antioxidants.

It's made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans but remember it's different from cocoa powder which has been heated at high temperatures.

To celebrate National Chocolate Week, nutritionist Cassandra Barns has given us the low-down on the benefits of raw cacao and why you should be eating it.

1. It's good for your heart

"Raw cacao is high in flavanols – plant compounds associated with antioxidant activity.

"The flavanols in cacao are thought to help improve circulation to the heart and may reduce risk of heart disease by helping to lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, reduce blood stickiness and even improve cholesterol levels.

"Flavanol levels can be greatly reduced when cacao is roasted to make conventional chocolate.

"Cacao is also rich in potassium, which helps to regulate blood pressure and magnesium, which is vital for muscle function (our heart is our most important muscle)."

2. It's a natural energy booster

"Cacao contains a small amount of caffeine, as well as a compound called theobromine, which has a mild stimulating and energising effect.

"So having a few pieces of raw chocolate can be a great afternoon pick-me-up without the over-stimulation and jittery feeling you can get from coffee.

"But what makes cacao the real energy superstar is its high magnesium content: magnesium is essential for your body to make energy and many of us don't get enough of it in our daily diet.

"What's more, whereas standard chocolate bars can be high in refined sugar that's quickly absorbed.

"When choosing chocolate, Ombar contains smaller amounts of unrefined coconut sugar, providing slow-releasing, sustained energy without the sugar rush."

3. It's good for your skin

"If you're still on the fence about the benefits of raw cacao, then consider this.

"Eating flavanol-rich chocolate has been found to help protect our skin against sun damage, as well as improve circulation to the skin, increase skin hydration, and reduce roughness and scaling.

"Who would have thought it – eating chocolate could help you keep your youthful looks (but choose raw for the greatest benefits)."

4. It supports your fitness goals

"The natural energising effect of raw chocolate can be great for a pre-workout boost.

"The magnesium it contains supports muscle function, aids electrolyte balance and may be beneficial for muscle recovery too.

"What's more, the flavanols in chocolate can have an anti-inflammatory effect, which could help to reduce inflammation and support recovery after a workout."

5. It makes you happy

"Cacao contains several active substances that may have a positive effect on our mood.

"One of these is phenylethylamine (PEA) – a natural compound that's made in our brain.

"PEA is associated with good mood, and is said to be released in high amounts when we're in love.

"Cacao is also rich in minerals such as magnesium and zinc, which help to produce other ‘feel-good' brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine."



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