Dark Chocolate

Dark Chocolate

Superpower your kids!

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Benefits of Dark Chocolate

  • Ounce for ounce, chocolate is the undisputed antioxidant champion. If raw, organic, and minimally processed the chocolate will have more antioxidant benefits than berries. Check out our resource on berries for more info on antioxidants.
  • Chocolate is made from cacao beans. By weight a cacao bean is 45% cacao solids and 55% cacao butter. The solids contain antioxidants and other nutrients. The cacao butter contains the fats. The fat is mostly healthy saturated fat, monounsaturated fat (the same type as olive oil), and a small amount of polyunsaturated fat (omega-6). Cacao butter is a good source of vegan fat.   
  • Chocolate is loaded with minerals, particularly iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese. There is a good amount of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium as well. 
  • Chocolate has a decent amount of fiber and protein
  • Chocolate contains a special substance called theobromine (also found in coffee beans, some teas, and guarana berries). Theobromine provides a mental and physical boost which is similar to caffeine but lasts longer and is milder. It may increase blood flow to the brain and boost creativity. Check out the nutrient table below for more of theobromine’s benefits!
  • Pure cacao has antimicrobial effects for the mouth which supports the health of your teeth. It helps prevent cavities and tooth decay.
  • Chocolate contains tryptophan which causes a sense of euphoria due to increased release of serotonin.
  • Chocolate has flavonols (a type of antioxidant) which promote skin health. Flavonols improve blood flow and reduce sun damage. Cocoa butter is also an ideal skin moisturizer and skin rejuvenate. 
  • Despite all these benefits, we recommend moderation in consuming both chocolate as a bar or in a powder form. Consuming too much may lead to side effects such as shaking, headaches, sweating, and increased anxiety. Please pay attention to the serving size.

**It is critical to note that chocolate products can have other types of fat added like “milk fat” or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” in addition to the cocoa butter. These added fats are not healthy. If the chocolate contains fat ingredients other than cocoa butter, avoid or limit your consumption of that product.

Dark Chocolate

About Chocolate

  • The scientific name for the tree that chocolate comes from (Theobroma cacao) means “food of the gods.” It was once used as currency in the Mayan civilization.
  • Chocolate has more than 600 flavor compounds (red wine has about 200). Take a brief moment and truly savour the complex taste!
  • Chocolate does have a significant amount of caffeine. There may be as much as 50 mg of caffeine in one bar of chocolate, which is more than one shot of espresso.
  • To make one pound of chocolate, it takes more than 400 cacao beans. Each cacao tree produces about 2500 beans per year. It can take about a year for a cacao tree to produce enough beans to make 10 chocolate bars.When you consider the amount of time and resources it takes to make a bar of chocolate, you won’t take it for granted so much (or mind paying extra for the good stuff).
  • Cacao (chocolate) liquor contains both the cacao solids and butter in equal proportions. It is usually in a semi solid or liquid form. It is bitter. Historically, it was consumed at important (often religious) occasions. The word “liquor” does not mean alcoholic, rather it means “liquid.”
  • “Eating chocolate” was not known until the mid 1800s when a British company (Fry & Sons) added sugar to cocoa liquor to create a sweet edible bar. However, the texture was very grainy and not smooth. The addition of condensed milk in 1875 by Danial Peter in Switzerland changed the world. This addition changed the texture of chocolate making it silky smooth.
  • Chocolate has flavonols (type of antioxidant) which promotes skin health. It improves blood flow and reduces sun damage.  The cocoa butter is also an ideal skin moisturizer and skin rejuvenate. 

Fun fact: Chocolate is the only edible substance to melt around 93° F, which is just below the human body temperature. This is the property in chocolate that allows it to melt so easily in our mouths. 

Why Fair Trade?

  • Most of the cacao comes from under-developed countries in Africa (mostly Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, and Ghana) that are often exploited by large corporations (Hi, Hershey…). Cacao plantations have a long history of abuse and exploitation. Cheap chocolate is cheap because someone else is paying the rest of the cost (in low or no wages, land exploitation, and dangerous working conditions).
  • “Fair trade” is a way for you to know that you are buying an ethical product. Fair trade certified products are checked out by a third party organization and held to higher standards that ensure gender equality, environmental responsibility, safe working conditions, and fair wages.
  • We strongly believe that producers of any product should be fairly compensated. Start with the chocolate you buy and build up to buying other fair trade products as you can afford it. Making healthier choices for ourselves is the first step, making healthier choices for our community and the globe goes right along with it!


If you want to learn more, Fairtrade America and Fair Trade Certified have great resources to check out.

Chocolate Types

Minerals

*Essential

– Surprisingly high source 
12% daily per 1 ounce
*1 ounce is about 30 grams

– Prevents anemia (deficiency of red blood cells)
– Improves muscle endurance
– Boosts energy
– Boosts immune system
– Improves sleep 
– Reduces bruising
– Supports normal blood clotting

*Essential

*50% of the American population is not getting the recommended amount

– Supports over 600 reactions in the body
– Helps create energy
– Helps create proteins
– Supports muscle contraction and relaxation
– Helps create and repair DNA and RNA
– Helps regulate nervous system
– Improves exercise performance
– Helps improve mental health
– Helps regulate blood pressure
– Fights inflammation
– May prevent migraines
– Reduces insulin resistance
– May improve some PMS symptoms

*Essential

– Supports bone and teeth health
– Necessary for muscle contraction and relaxation
– Supports heart health
– Co-factor (has to be present) for many cellular reactions to take place
– Supports healthy blood pressure
– Supports normal blood clotting

*Essential

– Supports bone health
– Antioxidant
– Reduces inflammation
– Regulates blood sugar
– Decreases seizure activity
– Supports brain health
– Supports thyroid health
– Assists in wound healing

*Essential

– Antioxidant
– Heart healthy
– Anticancer
– Decreases inflammation 
– Decreases mental decline
– Supports thyroid health
– Boosts immune system
– Reduces asthma symptoms

*Essential

– Regulates the body’s fluid balance
– Supports nervous system health
– Regulates heart and muscle contractions
– Lowers blood pressure
– Protects against strokes
– Prevents kidney stone
– Protects against osteoporosis

*Essential

– Boosts immune system
– Speeds up wound healing
– Reduces acne
– Decreases age-related illnesses
– Decreases inflammation
– Part of many enzymes for building protein and genetic material (DNA)
– Critical for normal taste
– Supports fetal development
– Assists in sperm production
– Necessary for normal growth and sexual maturation

*Essential

– Assists in production of red blood cells (prevents anemia)
– Regulates blood pressure and heart rate
– Necessary for iron absorption
– Activates immune system
– Supports bone and brain health and maintenance

– Helps with water balance in the body
– Necessary for normal muscle contraction and relaxation
– Supports brain and nervous system health
– Regulates blood pressure
– Promotes skin health

– Supports bone and muscle health
– Improves energy
– Aids in tissue and cell repair (found in every cell)
– Necessary for proper nerve conduction
– Normalizes heart beat
– Helps body maintain a healthy pH (acid/base balance), allowing cells to perform optimally

Antioxidants & Protein

  1. Flavonoids:
    1. Flavonols
      1. Epicatechin
      2. catechin
    2. *Anthocyanins (Anthocyanidins)
    3. Proanthocyanidins
      1. procyanidins 
  1. Phenolic acids (smaller amounts)

**Note: Some other antioxidants are formed during the processing phase of making chocolate.

– Reduce excessive inflammation in the body
– Are synergistic and have multifunctional positive effects on the body
– May reduce incidence of Parkinson’s disease
– Anti-cancer
– Boost brain health
– Improve memory
– Neutralize free radicals and reduce damage to cells and their components
– Heart healthy
   – Improve lipid panel
   – Lower blood pressure
– Fight neurodegenerative diseases
– Fight any diseases associated with oxidative stress (too many free radicals).
– May help prevent Alzheimer’s disease

*Contains the amino acid tryptophan in larger quantities. It is a precursor to serotonin.

Boost mood and increase euphoric feelings. 
– Reduces appetite/ can help with weight control
– Increases muscle mass and strength
– Lowers blood pressure
– Supports bone health
– Boosts metabolism
– Helps body repair after injury
– Helps maintain fitness as body ages

Fats

– Stearic acid
– Palmitic acid

– Allow bones to better utilize calcium (meaning stronger bones)
– Protects liver
– Support brain and nerve health (the brain is composed more of saturated fat than polyunsaturated fat)
– Boost immune system

– Oleic acid (like Olive oil)

– Provide energy
– Helps stabilize blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity
Anti inflammatory
– May reduce your cancer risks
– May help you lose weight

– Omega-6 Fatty acids (essential)

– Promotes heart health in the recommended amounts
– Brain health and function
– Provides energy

Carbohydrates

Insoluble 
Soluble 

*recommended daily fiber
-men 35 grams
-women 25 grams

-Raspberries have the highest amount of fiber

– Can help with weight control due to reduction in appetite
– Reduce blood sugar spike
– Support gut health and a healthy microbiome
– Contribute to a feeling of being full
– Regulate bowel movements and reduce constipation
– May reduce the chance of colon cancer
– May lower cholesterol levels
– Provide energy

-Blueberries have the highest amount of carbs. 2 times more than strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.

– Can help with weight control due to reduction in appetite
– Reduce blood sugar spike
– Support gut health and a healthy microbiome
– Contribute to a feeling of being full
– Regulate bowel movements and reduce constipation
– May reduce the chance of colon cancer
– May lower cholesterol levels
– Provide energy

Miscellaneous

*an alkaloid similar in structure to caffeine. Uniquely found in the cacao bean

– Provides a mental and physical boost similar to caffeine but lasts longer and is milder.
– May increase blood flow to the brain and boost creativity
Lowers blood pressure
– May improve cholesterol numbers (may be cardio protective), 
Improve mood and relaxation
Gentle cough suppressant (almost as effective as codeine without the side effects) 
Widens small airways in the lungs (may help with asthma or other respiratory issue)
– Potent anti inflammatory.
Helps regulate blood sugar levels

 

-natural stimulant
-blocks adenosine which is responsible for sleepiness. 

**Warning: Consume in moderate doses.
Too much can lead to headaches, anxiety, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, restlessness and trouble sleeping.

– Mood enhancement
– Increased concentration and alertness
– Increased mental clarity
– May reduce the chance of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s
– May lower suicidal tendency
– May reduce depression
– May boost metabolism and fat burning
– Enhance exercise performance

 

– Enhances mood
– Provides sense of euphoria

How to enjoy:

Even though dark chocolate is a SuperHero food, it should still be savored in small amounts because it contains sugar and caffeine. Because of the caffeine content, I suggest you enjoy chocolate much like you would enjoy coffee.  Don’t feed it to your kids too late in the afternoons or they might be up all night!

Chocolate bars:

I suggest just breaking a square of two off and putting the chocolate bar away before you eat (so you don’t go grabbing for more!).  As for the kiddos, put a little square on their plate or in their lunch. Sometimes I will give my kids a piece of good quality chocolate with their breakfast.  I think it is a great compliment to a high-fat breakfast that boosts their brain power for the day.

Chocolate chips:

You can serve a few chocolate chips on your kid’s plate just like a piece of a chocolate bar. Chocolate chips are also a great special topping for yogurt, fruit bowls, or tossed in with some dried fruits and nuts for a snack to go.

Cacao Powder:

Add a little scoop of cacao powder to your smoothies or mix in with yogurt. You can make your own hot chocolate with a spoonful in warmed milk (or oat milk) and a bit of honey. With the right fruit (strawberries, mangoes, maybe even bananas!), a little dusting of cacao powder will really up your snack.

 

*If you want to get adventurous add cacao to your next batch of lentils or chili for a rich and interesting flavor. Cacao pairs really well with chili powders and beans of all types! It doesn’t just have to be a sweet; cacao can go savory too.

Cacao Powder:

Add a little scoop of cacao powder to your smoothies or mix in with yogurt. You can make your own hot chocolate with a spoonful in warmed milk (or oat milk) and a bit of honey. With the right fruit (strawberries, mangoes, maybe even bananas!), a little dusting of cacao powder will really up your snack.

 

*If you want to get adventurous add cacao to your next batch of lentils or chili for a rich and interesting flavor. Cacao pairs really well with chili powders and beans of all types! It doesn’t just have to be a sweet; cacao can go savory too.

***Cacao powder is different from cocoa powder***

Although the terms are often used interchangeably and are confusingly alike, they have some differing qualities. Basically, cocoa powder is more processed and thus has fewer beneficial components than cacao powder. You can substitute cacao powder for cocoa in any recipe.

How to buy:

There are a couple of important things to pay attention to  when buying chocolate: percentage, ingredients, organic and fair trade labels, and minimal processing. 

Buy chocolate that is 70% cacao or greater.  The percentage on the label indicates the amount of cacao beans as a weight present in the chocolate. The higher the percentage the more bitter the taste. However, the higher the percentage, the less sugar and more health benefits too. 70% cacao and above provide lots more of the health benefits we’ve written about. If you don’t see a percentage on the label, I wouldn’t buy it.  You can assume that the cacao is less than 70% even if it says “dark chocolate” on the label.

There are a couple of important things to pay attention to  when buying chocolate: percentage, ingredients, organic and fair trade labels, and minimal processing. 

Buy chocolate that is 70% cacao or greater.  The percentage on the label indicates the amount of cacao beans as a weight present in the chocolate. The higher the percentage the more bitter the taste. However, the higher the percentage, the less sugar and more health benefits too. 70% cacao and above provide lots more of the health benefits we’ve written about. If you don’t see a percentage on the label, I wouldn’t buy it.  You can assume that the cacao is less than 70% even if it says “dark chocolate” on the label.

**Fact: A chocolate can be labeled as “dark chocolate” if the cacao content is over 34%.

Read the ingredients.  In general, chocolate bars only need a couple ingredients: Cacao butter, cacao, and a sweetener.  Of course there are fun flavors that may add peppermint or rose, but the addition of a flavor should only be one more REAL ingredient on the list (no “natural flavorings”). 

Less processing means more antioxidants benefits, so look for raw cacao. 

 Always buy fair trade. If you missed the blurb earlier in this article, scroll back up to learn more about Fair Trade. Fair trade supports responsible companies that empower farmers and workers by paying them quality wages and giving them safe working conditions.

Like with fruits and vegetables, buying organic chocolate means that you are ingesting fewer chemicals with your food. Organic means better quality and fewer toxins.

Where to Buy:

Most grocery stores have at least a few organic, fair trade brands of chocolate. But if you can’t find it there, you can always order online. If you’re lucky enough to have a local chocolate shop or vendor at your farmers market, ask them about where they source their cacao!

I like the brand Good Stuff Cacao chocolate.  They use 100% raw Cacao and sweeten it with raw honey.  
I also like the HU Gems as a replacement for generic chocolate chips. 
For cacao powder, I like the Navitas brand.
You can find most of these brands at Whole Foods, Target, Amazon, Thrive Market, and other local grocery stores.

Most grocery stores have at least a few organic, fair trade brands of chocolate. But if you can’t find it there, you can always order online. If you’re lucky enough to have a local chocolate shop or vendor at your farmers market, ask them about where they source their cacao!

I like the brand Good Stuff Cacao chocolate.  They use 100% raw Cacao and sweeten it with raw honey.  
I also like the HU Gems as a replacement for generic chocolate chips. 
For cacao powder, I like the Navitas brand.
You can find most of these brands at Whole Foods, Target, Amazon, Thrive Market, and other local grocery stores.

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