As a dark chocolate lover, I am always happy when research confirms that in addition to bringing me joy, this decadent treat also has some added health benefits. But first, let’s start at the beginning.

Chocolate’s history dates back to at least 2000 B.C. In its earliest days, chocolate was often consumed by the Mayans as a cold & frothy spicy beverage.

Dark ChocolateIn the late 1700’s this cold drink evolved into a warm cup of cozy. The spiciness was traded in for sweetness. The cold water was replaced by hot water, and then hot milk. In the late 1800’s brilliant minds, in my humble opinion, began experimenting with cocoa butter and sugar, and voila, the chocolate bar was born!

Now that we have our mini history lesson out of the way, let’s talk health benefits. There has been a great deal of research suggesting that dark chocolate is good for your heart. Given that February is heart month, this discussion seems rather timely. Dark chocolate has been linked to better circulation, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It also happens to be a source of fibre, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc & selenium. Flavanols are a big part of why dark chocolate is good for our heart. Lose the dark, lose the flavanols & you miss out on the heart protective properties that they bring to the table.

While dark chocolate boasts several benefits, we are wise to remember that moderation and selection of good quality chocolate is important.

Dark Chocolate Tips:

• One to two small squares is typically a good serving size.
• Choose 70-80% dark chocolate to take advantage of the health benefits. Unfortunately, milk chocolate doesn’t boast the same kind of health benefits and it often contains more sugar than dark chocolate as well as additional emulsifiers and fats.
• Choose organic when possible as well to reduce the amount of extra chemicals in the finished product.
• Sensitive to caffeine? With a higher percentage of cocoa solids, comes a higher caffeine content. The average 8 oz cup of coffee contains 100-200 milligrams of caffeine. By comparison, two ounces of 70% dark chocolate contains about 50-60 mg caffeine.
• Look for fair trade chocolate to support fair economies around the world.
• Not sure you like dark chocolate? Try taking a small piece and let it slowly melt in your mouth. This change in the way we might normally eat chocolate may help you slow down your consumption and begin to appreciate a new flavour experience.

Did you know?
Ever wondered why chocolate sales are so big around Valentine’s? When we enjoy dark chocolate, our brain releases phenylethylamine and serotonin. These chemicals are similar to the chemicals that are released when we are falling in love. If you’ve got your eye on a special someone, give them chocolate to increase your chances of them feeling warm fuzzies when you are near. Pro dating advice: Make sure they eat the chocolate around you, otherwise you run the risk of them from falling for someone else!

Here is my spin on a warm cup of cocoa.

Hot Cocoa

  • 1-2 tbsp natural cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 cup milk or unsweetened dairy alternative of your choice
  • dash of cayenne or dash of cinnamon, optional

Warm ingredients in a small sauce pan and enjoy!

Photo by Tetiana Bykovets on Unsplash