We all know that too many sweets and desserts aren’t good for us but sometimes things can work in your favor, especially when you take a look at the many incredible benefits of dark chocolate.
It’s not often you can come across a food that is a dessert item yet it can benefit your body in fabulous ways. That’s exactly the case with dark chocolate as people learn increasingly more about this hidden health gem.
Dark Chocolate and Paleo Do Mix
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If you follow the Paleo lifestyle then the idea of being able to eat dark chocolate may seem a bit unbelievable to you, yet here’s the incredible part: You can actually enjoy dark chocolate and still adhere to your healthy Paleo lifestyle. When you think of chocolate, most assume that it’s a giant “NO” as far as the Paleo diet goes. Good news: That’s not exactly the case. Although, we’re not talking about any old chocolate here. We’re talking strictly about dark chocolate that comes directly from the cacao bean, with very little else added to it. Cacao beans are a natural product that grow on the Cacao Tree. Dark chocolate has a bitter flavor to it, so for some people it may be an acquired taste. The reason it tastes so different than milk and white chocolate is because it is pure; there are no milk solids that have been added to it.
When shopping for dark chocolate you will notice it has a percentage on its label which may read 60% dark chocolate, 70%, and so forth all the way up to 100%. This is the ratio of dark chocolate to the other ingredients which are emulsifiers and sugar. For the best dark chocolate you want one that has the highest percentage on the label. Keep in mind the higher the percentage, the more bitter it will also taste.
There’s also another aspect of the label to take a look at. Dark chocolate can be unsweetened (Baker’s), semi-sweet, or bittersweet. This refers to the level of sugar added to the chocolate. The greater the sugar content, the more it will cut through the bitterness. It is suggested if you plan on sticking to a Paleo diet you go for a dark chocolate that reads at least 70% and contains as little added sugar as possible. Organic and free trade are other elements to look for.
What Are the Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate?
So now that we’ve determined you can indeed (moderately) indulge in dark chocolate while following a Paleo diet, other than taste, why would you want to eat it? There are all kinds of dark chocolate health benefits that you can take advantage of when you have this tasty snack.
1. First off, dark chocolate can be extremely beneficial for your heart. The cacao bean from which it is derived is actually very high in flavanols, a type of flavonoids, which are a plant nutrient. This nutrient has been shown to help repair damage from environmental toxins. When ingested, you’ll be able to enjoy antioxidant benefits. Antioxidants are extremely helpful for the body as they are able to target cells in your body and help them resist the damage that can be done by environmental factors and free radicals.
2. There’s more: the flavanols have also been shown to improve the blood flow to your heart, improve the blood flow to your brain, lower your blood pressure, and decrease the risk of blood clotting.
3. As far as the nutrient content goes, take a look at the fat content of a piece of dark chocolate versus that of milk chocolate and you may find yourself shocked. Dark chocolate contains very little fat and what fat it does contain has been shown to have little negative side effects. Stearic acid is one of the acids found in dark chocolate and it is a saturated fat, this particular fat has been shown to help with blood cholesterol levels by having a neutral effect.
4. Dark chocolate also contains minerals and soluble fiber. In fact a 100 gram bar of dark chocolate (it must contain 70-85% Cacao) has 98% of your daily manganese, 89% of your daily copper, 11 grams of fiber, 58% of your daily magnesium, and 67% of your daily iron intake. Dark chocolate also contains selenium, zinc, phosphorus, and potassium. You probably won’t want to eat 100 grams at a time though, as this amount also has 600 calories packed in it. It does show you though that there are a number of great health benefits in dark chocolate.
5. Lastly, there has been some research done on dark chocolate and its ability to protect your skin against sun damage. Again, it goes back to those flavanols that are working to increase the blood flow to your skin, protect against sun-damage, and increase the hydration and density of your skin.
Conclusion: Finding the Right Amount of Dark Chocolate
So now that you’re aware of the many health benefits of dark chocolate and the best dark chocolate to pick, how do you know how much you can have? It’s suggested that you consume no more than 100 calories on a daily basis, and even at that it’s probably not something you want to have each and every day. Think of it as a way to fill your sweet tooth without feeling too guilty about it. Also, be sure to read the label well to ensure there are only small amounts of sugar added and that there is nothing in it you can’t have on your Paleo diet.
For a (moderate) dose of dark chocolate, try this sweet and salty pistachio bark.