9 Ways Chocolate Is Good for You (+ 7 Healthy Chocolate Recipes)

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February is the month for the celebration of love and especially for all things chocolate. Did you know that more chocolate is purchased in the U.S. during the month of February than in any other month – around $350 million dollars’ worth!

Another fun fact is that Britain’s King Henry VIII (the king who had six wives) is credited with declaring February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day back in 1537. It was not until 1868, however, that Richard Cadbury first began marketing boxes of chocolates to help people celebrate St. Valentine’s Day.

While a box of chocolates isn’t exactly healthy due to the sugar content, the raw cacao bean that they are made from? Positively brilliant for your health. Research has uncovered that there are many health benefits to be derived from eating chocolate. Some forms of chocolate are better than others, however, and in this article you’ll discover exactly which chocolate is a benefit to your health and which is not.

Read on too for 7 healthy chocolate recipes that you can easily whip up for your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day, or anytime you’re looking for easy healthy chocolate desserts throughout the year.

Raw Cacao Powder vs Cocoa Powder: What’s the Difference?

They might look Cacao beans and powderalmost the same, but when it comes to your health there’s a big difference between raw cacao powder and cocoa powder.

According to research, the closer chocolate is to its original raw state, the better it is for you. Raw cacao (the “a” comes before “o”) is made by cold-pressing cocao beans that have not been roasted. Cacao powder can be found in health food stores, specialty stores, and online.

Raw cacao contains:

  • minerals including magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, copper, potassium and manganese
  • phenolic antioxidants including catechin and epicatechin, the health-giving antioxidants also found in green tea
  • enzymes, which help chemical reactions occur in the body
  • resveratrol, a naturally occurring antioxidant also found in grapes
  • phenylethylamine (PEA), an organic compound that acts as a neurotransmitter and a stimulant to the brain and nervous system

Cocoa powder is the kind found in the baking section of most grocery stores and has been roasted at high temperatures. This alters the molecular structure of the cacao and reduces the minerals, enzymes, and other nutrients – all of which effectively lowers the overall nutritional value of cocoa powder [1].

A 2018 study found that the resveratrol content remained high in both unprocessed cacao and roasted cocoa powder [2], but it is clear that raw cacao is a much better option overall health-wise.

9 Impressive Health Benefits of Chocolate/Cacao

It can seem rare in life when something enjoyable also turns out to be healthy for us. That’s what makes these health benefits of chocolate extra delicious!

#1. Anti-Diabetic Effect

The antioxidants in chocolate have an anti-diabetic effect, enhancing insulin secretion, modulating insulin signaling, improving insulin sensitivity, lowering cholesterol, reducing hyperglycemia, and it even prevents the oxidative and inflammatory damage associated with Type 2 diabetes [3].

Stethoscope listening to a heartbeat#2. Cardiovascular Health

Resveratrol isn’t only found in wine and grapes. It’s also a powerful antioxidant from both raw cacao and cocoa powder that greatly benefits the cardiovascular system.

A 2016 study found that the flavanols in chocolate also had blood pressure lowering effects, as well as a number of other benefits for the cardiovascular system [4].

In addition, when chocolate is eaten, the polyphenols in it induce the release of nitric oxide (NO). NO helps the cardiovascular system by relaxing blood vessels and reducing blood pressure. These polyphenols also inhibit platelet aggregation, which helps to limit the formation of atherosclerotic plaques, thrombosis and reduce inflammation [5].

#3. Protects Nervous System and Brain

Resveratrol has a protective effect on the nervous system. Cacao has also been found to protect neurons (nerve cells) from damage, have an anti-inflammatory effect, and improve cognitive performance [6, 7]. 2016 research found that resveratrol may even have some benefits for Alzheimer’s Disease [8].

#4. Protects Against Stroke

A 2012 clinical study involving over 37,000 men found that chocolate consumption may lower the risk of stroke [9].

#5. Anti-Inflammatory Effect

The polyphenols in chocolate inhibit intestinal inflammation, and so may be of benefit to those with inflammatory bowel disorders and other inflammatory conditions [5].

A 2016 review of medical literature stated that numerous studies revealed cocoa and cocoa-derived flavanols are able to effectively modify the inflammatory process. As such they can potentially provide a benefit to people with elevated risk factors for atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer [10].

#6. May Assist In Weight Loss

Studies have shown that chocolate intake alters genes involved in the production of adipose (fat) cells [5]. So rather than making us fat, dark chocolate may actually help us to lose weight!

#7. May Help Improve Immune System and Gut Microbiome

A 2017 review of medical literature found that cocoa polyphenols may behave as prebiotics in the gut [5]. Prebiotics feed healthy gut flora and thus improve immunity. This is because around 70 to 80 percent of immune cells are located in the intestinal tract.

#8. Anti-Aging

The high levels of antioxidants in cacao help guard against premature aging. It is the perfect anti-aging food (but only if NOT combined with sugar).

#9. Mood Boosting

Phenylethylamine (or PEA) is a neurotransmitter in the brain, and it’s also created during the thermal processing of chocolate. PEA has a stimulatory effect which leads to the release of feel good hormones including dopamine and serotonin.

This is one of the biggest reasons why chocolate makes us feel so good, and why we tend to reach for chocolate when we are depressed [11].

3 Tips on What to Look for When Buying Chocolate

If your health, human rights, and the planet are important to you, there are a few things you need to know before making your chocolate purchase. As mentioned earlier, chocolate differs greatly in quality, so be aware of these three important tips when shopping for chocolate:

#1. Buy dark chocolate instead of milk or chocolate. Milk chocolate contains a lot more sugar as well as milk. According to a 2003 study, the presence of milk in chocolate interferes with the body’s ability to absorb its antioxidants [12].

Pieces of dark chocolate#2. Look for organic and unprocessed chocolate. Commercially prepared chocolate has been found to contain cadmium and lead and other heavy metals that cause many problems for health, especially in children who tend to absorb them easier than adults [13, 14].

Choosing organic chocolate also means you are far less likely to be buying chocolate that contains palm oil, which is linked to the destruction of rainforests and habitats for animals. Buying organic chocolate also greatly reduces the odds it was produced using child or slave labor.

#3. Go even one step further to protect human rights by buying organic brands under Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, or UTZ certified labels, which are meant to guarantee slave-free goods [15].


7 Easy-to-Make and Healthy Chocolate Recipes

Once you have your high-quality, organic cocao and dark chocolate in hand, here are seven healthy chocolate recipes you can enjoy guilt-free! (Note: many of these recipes also contain cinnamon, which also boasts a host of health benefits.)

Peanut Butter Zucchini Brownies

Ingredients:
3/4 cup organic peanut butter
1/4 cup maple syrup or brown rice syrup
1 cup grated zucchini
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
2 tablespoons freshly ground flaxseed
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup mini dark chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Grease 8×8″ square baking dish. Into a large mixing bowl, combine peanut butter, sweetener of choice, shredded zucchini, cacao powder, flaxseed, baking soda, vanilla extract, and salt. Stir until well combined. Add in the chocolate chips.
2. Scrape mixture into prepared baking dish, using a spatula to spread evenly. Sprinkle top with additional chocolate chips if you wish.
3. Bake for 30 minutes, then completely cool before slicing. Store unused portions in the refrigerator.

Click the video below to watch Katrina prepare these dense and chewy brownies.  


No-Bake Nutty Fudge Energy Bars

Ingredients:
1 cup pitted Medjool dates
1/4 cup raw walnuts
1/4 cup raw pecans
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tablespoon chia seeds
3 tablespoons raw cacao powder
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
Sea salt (optional)
1/4 cup goji berries
1 tablespoon warm water, if necessary

Topping:
2 oz (55 gms) 85% dark chocolate
1/4 cup your choice chopped nuts
Sea salt flakes

Directions:
1. Into the bowl of a food processor, combine dates and nuts, and process until reasonably well combined but still chunky.
2. Add shredded coconut, chia seeds, cacao powder, melted coconut oil, vanilla, and salt. Process until mixture is chunky and starting to clump together. If mixture is too dry, add a couple tablespoons of warm water and process again.
3. Add in goji berries and pulse just a few times until combined. Into an 8×4 inch pan lined with parchment paper, pressing mixture evenly towards the edges of the pan.
4. Into a double boiler or glass bowl placed over pan with boiling water, melt the dark chocolate. Pour chocolate over the date/nut mixture, tilting the pan to enable the chocolate to cover surface. Top with your choice of chopped nuts and sprinkle with sea salt flakes.
5. Place into freezer for about 30-60 minutes to harden. To serve, cut into squares.

Click the video below to watch Katrina make these easy & delicious energy bars.


Chocolate Cherry Shake

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
1 cup unsweetened almond, hemp, or coconut milk (your choice)
1 frozen banana
3 pitted Medjool dates
1 cup frozen dark sweet cherries
3-5 ice cubes

Directions:
Place all items in blender container and mix until of a smooth consistency. Makes 1 serving.

Click the video below to see just how easy it is to whip up this smoothie recipe.


Deliciously Healthy Chickpea Brownies

Ingredients:
1 can (15 oz/425 gms) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup almond or cashew butter
1/4 cup almond meal (you can make this by blending 1/4 cup raw almonds in food processor until they are the consistency of bread crumbs)
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
1/2 cup maple syrup or brown rice syrup
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup dark chocolate, finely chopped

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Into the bowl of a food processor, combine chickpeas, nut butter, almond meal, cacao powder, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt. Process until creamy and smooth, scraping down sides of bowl if necessary.
2. Remove lid and stir in chocolate bits. Pour into a greased 8×8″ square dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes.


Chocolate Pudding with Whipped Coconut Cream & Cacao Nibs

Ingredients:
Pudding
1/4 cup coconut cream (liquid portion from refrigerated can of coconut milk)
1 large banana, peeled
2 avocados, peeled & pitted
1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
1 tablespoon chocolate Organixx Bone Broth Protein powder
Pinch of sea salt
Whipped Coconut Cream
1 can (14 oz/440 ml) coconut cream (solid portion from refrigerated can of coconut milk)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon powdered sugar (or substitute 1 drop stevia if desired)
Topping
1 tablespoon raw cacao nibs

Directions:
1. For chocolate pudding: Open the refrigerated can of coconut cream and scoop the thicker portion out into a dish for the whipped coconut cream. From the liquid portion measure out 1/4 cup.
2. Into a blender container, add the 1/4 cup coconut milk (liquid portion), the banana, avocado flesh, cacao powder, Bone Broth protein powder, and tiny amount of salt. Blend until light and fluffy.
3. For whipped coconut cream: Into blender container add the thick portion of the coconut milk you previously set aside. Then add vanilla extract and powdered sugar and process until whipped and fluffy.
4. To serve, portion out pudding into individual serving dishes. Garnish with whipped coconut cream and the cacao nibs.


Raw Cacao Orange & Date Bliss Balls

Ingredients:
1 cup raw walnuts or cashews
1 cup Medjool dates
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup raw cacao powder + additional for dusting
1 tablespoon chia seeds
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 drop Organixx orange essential oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:
1. In the bowl of a blender or food processor, process the nuts until they are a fine consistency. Then add the dates and process again until well combined.
2. Add coconut, cacao, chia seeds, honey, orange juice, essential oil, and cinnamon and process together until of a smooth, even consistency.
3. Form into balls (if too dry, add a little water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Roll in additional cacao powder and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Want to see just how quick and easy it is to prepare these chocolate bliss balls? Click the video below. 


Cacao Maca Truffles

(Recipe adapted from mindbodygreen.com)
Maca is an adaptogenic herb, which means that it helps the body to adapt to different stressors. Maca has been used traditionally for increasing libido, making it a perfect Valentine’s Day nutrient!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup maca powder
1/2 cup cacao powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup almond, coconut, or hemp milk
1 cup almond or cashew butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons raw honey
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
Topping (optional): cacao powder or green matcha tea powder

Directions:
1. Into the bowl of a food processor add the dry ingredients, give it a stir, and then add the wet ingredients. Process until of a smooth consistency. You can also mix recipe together by hand if you don’t have a food processor. If texture is too dry, add a little water, one tablespoon at a time.
2. Roll into balls and dust with additional cacao or green matcha tea. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.


Flavor Tip: Adding a drop or two of food grade essential oils such as orange, mint, or lavender adds an extra dimension of flavor to chocolate recipes.


Purity and quality count when it comes to essential oils. Every time you use an essential oil you are creating a direct pathway to transmit every ingredient in that oil into your body. Essential Oils from Organixx are among the highest quality oils available to consumers and are made with indigenously sourced plants retrieved from the world’s best sources.

Article Summary

  • Research has uncovered that there are many health benefits to be derived from eating chocolate. But not all chocolate is created equal when it comes to health.

  • The closer chocolate is to its original raw state, the better it is for you. Raw cacao (ending in “ao”) is made by cold-pressing cocoa beans that have not been roasted.

  • Cacoa (ending in “oa”) is what is commonly found in grocery stores. It has been roasted at high temperatures which alters the molecular structure of the cacao and reduces the minerals, enzymes, and other nutrients.

  • The health benefits of the right kind of chocolate are wide-ranging and include:

    • Anti-Diabetic Effect
    • Cardiovascular Health
    • Protects Nervous System and Brain
    • Protects Against Stroke
    • Anti-Inflammatory Effect#6. May Assist In Weight Loss
    • May Help Improve Immune System and Gut Microbiome
    • Anti-Aging
    • Mood Boosting
  • When shopping for chocolate, look for dark, organic chocolate with a fair trade label.

  • Check out the blog post for these 7 easy-to-make and healthy chocolate dessert recipes:

    1. Peanut Butter Zucchini Brownies
    2. No-Bake Nutty Fudge Energy Bars
    3. Chocolate Cherry Shake
    4. Deliciously Healthy Chickpea Brownies
    5. Chocolate Pudding with Whipped Coconut Cream & Cacao Nibs
    6. Raw Cacao Orange & Date Bliss Balls
    7. Cacao Maca Truffles

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