The benefits of chocolate, especially raw cacao, continue to increase each year, it seems. When the raw food craze took off years ago, cacao took a top spotlight as being one of the best superfoods for your health. I was skeptical, because after all, wasn’t chocolate supposed to be bad for you? In recent years, however, we’ve learned that it’s not just about chocolate being a superfood that makes it a food to enjoy without guilt. There are many health benefits of chocolate that continue to increase year after year, and we’re learning specifically just how good chocolate is for immunity. Milk chocolate and sugar-filled varieties don’t count like the dark stuff, however. The best benefits of chocolate can be found in raw cacao powder, raw cacao nibs and raw cacao beans, along with dark cocoa powder and very dark chocolate, containing at least 80% or higher cacao content. Raw chocolate will contain many more antioxidants than heated forms like standard cocoa powder or processed chocolate bars, so stick to the raw forms whenever possible. Cacao comes with such an array of benefits that it's hard to resist adding it to your diet. Check out the benefits that this magical, indulgent food can add to your life, and specifically your immune health.
1. Decreased Blood Pressure
One of the top benefits of chocolate is its ability to lower blood pressure. High blood pressure from stress can contribute to everything from heart disease and digestive disorders to insomnia, acne and decreased immunity. Many people who are chronically stressed have high blood pressure, which not only makes life miserable, but is dangerous to your body. Chocolate is high in magnesium, which calms the body and lowers blood pressure. It’s also high in a chemical known as PEA, which sends a sense of euphoria to the brain and calms down your entire body in the process. It’s why most women reach for chocolate when they’re stressed. As long as you reach for the good kind without added sugar and milk, it’s a great way to lower your blood pressure, and in return, care for your immunity.
I’m sure you’ve all heard of antioxidants, and flavonols are a type of antioxidant that you'll want to be sure to include in your diet. Flavonoids are found in high amounts in dark chocolate, and especially raw cacao. Antioxidants have been proven to fight away toxic invaders that attack the immune system, cause heart disease and inflame the entire body. The high amount of flavonoids in chocolate are so high that they’ve been proven to be more beneficial than green tea or coffee through recent studies. This makes chocolate one of the top foods to fight off disease and inflammation.
3. Insulin Function
Chocolate is a wonderful food to stabilize your blood sugar, and in return, lower your insulin. Insulin is the hormone that increases when our blood sugar drops. This can happen from eating too many sugary foods, refined carbs or unhealthy fats. Insulin's job is to store fat in your body, and when it takes a huge surge, it increases stress and can lead to Type 2 diabetes if not carefully monitored. Certain foods like protein, green vegetables, complex carbs, and yes, chocolate, have been linked to better insulin function. Just remember the sugar forms of chocolate don’t count. I’m talking about the pure dark stuff here, or cocoa powder. Dark chocolate’s effect on the insulin helps to satiate your hunger, stabilize hormones and halt blood sugar surges. This is especially important for your immune system because high insulin levels can weaken your defenses against disease and also make you more stressed. This causes your immune system to work harder to fight off stress, and in the process, it can't defend you from disease as efficiently. Have one ounce of chocolate next time you feel your blood sugar dropping. The fats won’t cause weight gain, but will help to halt your blood sugar.
A healthy body is full of energy, and cacao is a wonderful food to increase your energy naturally. Chocolate contains small amounts of caffeine, but raw cacao has less caffeine than any other form, which makes it the best form to choose. Chocolate’s caffeine content isn’t what makes it so energizing though. Cacao is rich in magnesium, which increases energy, and it’s also rich in natural stimulants to provide energy to the body without a crash a few hours later. Your body needs energy to be active throughout the day, since studies show that inactivity is one of the worst things for your immune system.
5. Heart Disease Prevention
Though chocolate is great for stress and insulin resistance, the benefits on your immune system don’t stop there. Chocolate has a wonderful ability to fight heart disease due to the way if affects blood serum lipids and platelet function in the blood. It has the ability to combat clogged arteries that lead to heart disease. Clogged arteries from a poor diet are rich in lipid fats that block arteries, which increases heart disease and lowers immunity. Unhealthy fats and refined carbohydrates are some of the worst offenders for your heart. Chocolate helps to clear the blood of these unhealthy lipids from high cholesterol. Many people aren't aware that although chocolate contains saturated fat, it's cholesterol free. Cholesterol is only found in animal saturated fats, not plant foods.
6. Mood Booster
Let’s not forget how great of a mood booster chocolate is! Believe it or not, this is crucial to your body’s ability to fight disease. Depression and low mood have been linked to low immunity, which causes you to feel bad, become sick more easily and just generally not feel well at any point of the day. Chocolate is full of nutrients that stimulate a good mood, starting with magnesium, zinc, B vitamins and chemicals that induce good hormones in the body. Dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin are just a few hormones that increase when you eat chocolate, and a little goes a long way. Even just a touch of cacao powder or cocoa powder in your smoothie, coffee, oatmeal or yogurt will give you the benefits. These hormones help to fight stress, increase happiness and regardless that some people say chocolate is a drug, these hormones are important to your health and your immunity. Depression is one of the most common health problems in the US today. Natural foods like raw cacao, raw fruits and vegetables and clean sources of lean protein are the best way to fight poor immunity from stress, depression and lack of antioxidants.
7. Nutrient Content
The benefits of chocolate are too many to name, but the most important of all is the nutrient content of chocolate. Cacao has been proven to be higher in antioxidants than any food on the planet in its raw form. It’s higher in magnesium than any other food, and magnesium is responsible for over 200 enzymatic functions in your body. Magnesium is depleted from stress and a poor diet, and most people are deficient and don’t even know it. Chocolate is a great way to ensure you get enough magnesium through your diet. Since it contains a large amount, a little will go a long way in helping you get your daily quota. Iron intake is also very high in chocolate, with 10% of your daily needs per teaspoon! Zinc is one of the top nutrients that is crucial to immune health, and it’s abundant in chocolate and cacao. Zinc fights off disease, enhances the immune system and lowers stress in the body. Chocolate’s B vitamin content is also high, along with its Vitamin C content. Raw cacao is, again, the best way to obtain these nutrients, and it's delicious in a smoothie, or however else you want to use it.
If you’re not already using cacao or chocolate, I hope you’ll start soon! It’s fantastic for your immunity, your mood, and your weight. Besides, chocolate is delicious, so why not enjoy it more often? Do you use cacao? How do you enjoy it?