When it comes to chocolate, most people find that their will power seems to desert them, especially on occasions like Valentine’s Day. My theory on why some people crave chocolate is because it tastes so good!

Here’s the good news…. chocolate itself is not a bad food. In fact, it has some wonderful nutritional properties. But there can be many problems with the chocolate many people buy from the supermarket. The first is the ingredients they add to the chocolate; additives, colours, flavours, preservatives, soy lecithin, vegetables oils etc. The other problem is how much chocolate some people consume in one sitting.

Let’s get this myth out of the way once and for all! Chocolate does not make you fat. Well, REAL chocolate that is. In actual fact, pure cacao melts have no sugar and very little carbohydrates; they are filled with beautiful nutritious, good quality fats that are easily used as energy rather than storage.  And the best part about eating pure chocolate made from cacao melts is you only need a little to have that craving satisfied. A win-win all around!

So what is the good stuff in chocolate? Chocolate polyphenols are high in antioxidants that mop up the free radicals in our body, which helps to slow the aging of our cells and prevent degenerative diseases.  Think where the best and most amount of antioxidants are found: Red wine? Green tea? Pomegranate? Blueberries? Well, REAL chocolate leaves them all in the dust. Chocolate contains a neurotransmitter called Serotonin that acts as an anti-depressant. It is also a good source of magnesium, which stimulates our DHEA – our youth hormone. Even the simple act of inhaling the aroma of chocolate has been shown to induce a sense of relaxation. Can you see why we believe eating chocolate is sounding better and better all the time!

One of the most unique properties of cacao is theobromine (a chemical related to caffeine). Recent research shows the effects of how theobromine can lower blood pressure as well as help with asthma. Theobromine, despite its name, is not related to bromide and it does not have an addictive nature or have the same strong affects as caffeine has on the nervous system.  Encased within the cacao bean along with the other minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, fats, amino acids and carbohydrates, theobromine has health giving effects on many parts of the body.  The cacao bean can have up to 10% of its weight made up of theobromine and the effects of the theobromine on the body can be up to 6 – 10 hours after consumption.

Other wonderful compounds of cacao are the antioxidants. As mentioned before, antioxidants protect the body from aging and diseases caused by free radicals and oxidation. This is a fantastic sign from a health and beauty point of view. The cacao bean contains up to four times the antioxidants of traditional cacao powder. There are many types of antioxidants in chocolate and one particular subgroup called flavanols have wonderful effects on the brain and memory.  Researchers have reported that eating cacao flavonols daily may improve mild cognitive impairment.  It seems consumption of dark cacao may act directly on brain structure and function by protecting neurons from injury, improving metabolism and communication between the neurons.  The flavanols also produce a compound called nitric oxide, which is a compound that supports healthy circulation and cardiovascular health.

Cacao is rich in many minerals, particularly magnesium and is one of the best sources of this wonderful mineral.  Magnesium balances brain chemistry, thus can aid in helping with depression, along with other strategies.  Magnesium builds strong bones, is needed for heart health, can help with the prevention of restless legs, cramping and helps to release DHEA – our youth hormone!  Overall, it is one of those minerals many are lacking and simply cannot do without.  Many people are offered oral Magnesium supplements but these sources of magnesium may not be plant based. Magnesium in cacao is easily absorbed and utilised by the body.  Many Westerners show a deficiency in magnesium due to the SAD (Standard Australian/Western Diet).  Taking just a couple of cacao melts a day can help boost your magnesium intake.

Other minerals that cacao is rich in are; calcium, zinc, iron, copper and potassium.  All are necessary for a functioning endocrine (hormonal) system and a well-connected nervous system.  Minerals are needed for many functions in the body. -When you have a deficiency of minerals, the body cannot make the products it needs for health.  The mineral content in cacao can be part of making sure you are getting adequate mineral nutrition.

Anandamide is also found in cacao in quantities which are significant enough to affect the brain. Anandamide is also known as “the bliss chemical” because it is released when we are feeling good.  Eating rich dark cacao can create a state of bliss… just ask anyone who loves good chocolate.

Warning: Beware of too much cacao and chocolate

Remember, like anything in life and in health there is always caution to not overindulge. Just because the cacao I talk about is in its natural form does not mean you should go out and completely pig out on the stuff or eat all the healthy chocolate recipes you can find consistently each and every day!

I have spoken so highly of cacao and absolutely stand by its virtues. However chocolate can be addictive to some people for a reason. It can stimulate endorphins, dopamine, seratonin and anandamide in the same manner some addictive drugs can. However, whatever the true magnetism to good quality chocolate is, we believe it is one that should be enjoyed but in moderation.

If you want to get rid of your chocolate cravings, there are a few ground rules to follow.

Rule #1 – Eat only the best chocolate made from REAL ingredients. I always make my own chocolate using just 4 ingredients all from Changing Habits; Cacao melts, coconut oil, seaweed salt and rapadura sugar (or honey). I then add additional ingredients such as nuts, seeds, dried fruit, peppermint, orange or lime oil, chilli, vanilla or coconut. Once you have had a taste for these beautiful homemade chocolates (made with love), chances are you will not want to settle for anything less.

Rule #2 – Stay away from all other chocolates – do not buy store bought processed chocolates, only make and eat your own.

Rule #3 – When you eat this REAL homemade chocolate, savour it, enjoy the experience and make it last.

Choose your chocolate wisely and don’t settle for anything but the best. Better still, try the recipes in our 53 Shades of Chocolate e-Book and on our website and you will see why pure cacao is the BEST and most ULTIMATE chocolate of all.  Delight your senses with this true health giving delicacy. Listen to your body. Eat sensibly. You do not have to eat truckloads of the stuff in order to satisfy your craving for chocolate or to feel healthy. It is a beautiful indulgence that should be treasured and revered.

If you want to make your own chocolate, follow this link for a healthy cherry ripe chocolate recipe: http://www.changinghabits.com.au/recipes-1/cherry-ripe-honey-chocolate

Read How to Choose A Healthy Chocolate Blog here

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Cyndi O'Meara

Founder at Changing Habits
Not your typical nutritionist, Cyndi disagrees with low-fat, low-calorie diets, believes chocolate can be good for you and thinks cheating and eating yummy food is an important part of a well-balanced diet. Cyndi must be doing something right because she maintains a healthy weight and has never (in her whole life!) taken an antibiotic, pain-killer or any other form of medication. Cyndi is a passionate, determined and knowledgeable speaker on health issues and uses her education and experience to help others improve their quality of life so they too can enjoy greater health and longer lives.
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