I don’t know about you, but I love Chocolate and I have some good news…. Chocolate is an amazing superfood and mood boosting food!!
Cacao the main ingredient of chocolate has a rich history dating back over 4000 years ago where it was revered as a sacred energising drink! It was used for ceremonies, rituals and offerings and translates as ‘Food of the Gods’
”This drink is the healthiest thing, and the greatest sustenance of anything you could drink in the world, because he who drinks a cup of this liquid, no matter how far he walks, can go a whole day without eating anything else”. Cortes
During the 16th Century, Cacao quickly spread through Europe and with different technological advances, it slowly began to change with the addition of sugar and milk to become the chocolate we know today.
But cacao in its raw and purest form still holds amazing health benefits with incredible effects on the body.
Raw Cacao contains 4 amazing mood boosting chemicals- serotonin, tryptophan, tyrosine and phenylethylamine, which can help support feelings of happiness and wellbeing as well as alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Have you ever found yourself reaching for some chocolate if you're feeling a little down, well there is some proven science in this, in that Cacao can even help to convert the mood precursor tryptophan into the natural mood stabilizer serotonin within the body!
Cacao contains the highest plant-based source of magnesium which is needed for over 300 chemical reactions within the body including supporting heart health, energy production, muscle relaxation, helps turn glucose into energy enabling your brain to work with clarity and focus, and support blood sugar balance and Cacao contains a whopping 130% per 100g of our RDA of magnesium. Pretty impressive!
Magnesium plays a big role in hormonal balance. It is essential for the production of hormones such as Oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA, but it also supports the enzyme COMT (catechol-o-methyltransferase) in the liver which promotes the healthy excretion of excess oestrogen reducing the risk of oestrogen excess conditions
such as fibroids. Magnesium is vital to help to maintain a healthy balance of oestrogen within
This is especially important during the menstrual part of the cycle when magnesium levels tend to be lower, resulting in symptoms such as cramps and migraines, so by including magnesium rich foods such as cacao can help to increase levels and reduce PMS symptoms.
I’m sure we have all been there, that during those days of our period that the only thing that helps is a delicious bar of chocolate and yes that would be the magnesium that helps to alleviate those symptoms and give us those wonderful bliss feelings.
In addition to flavanols and magnesium, there is a neuroactive substance present in small amounts in cacao, phenylethylamine (PEA), which is thought to boost levels of the feel-good hormone’s dopamine and serotonin. Cacao also has the amazing ability to increase blood flow to the brain and enhance connections between neurons.
Did you know that serotonin also makes melatonin, which is needed for good quality sleep.
A major factor on how we feel is our sleep quality and restless and sleepless nights can be a form of chronic stress on the body.
Unfortunately, poor sleep quality has been linked to problems such as a weakened immune system, weight gain, hormonal imbalances and anxiety and depression, but by including magnesium rich foods during the day such as cacao can have a big impact on how you feel, energy levels and how you sleep.
Not only is cacao wonderful at supporting our moods but it also has many other health benefits!
Cacao is loaded with antioxidants and has 40x the concentration of antioxidants than blueberries, which helps to reduce the free radical damage from oxidative stress that causes inflammation and aging within the body, and I think we all like a food that can help to keep us feeling and looking younger.
So Cacao can not only take care of our skin, but make us look younger….hand me the chocolate!!
Due to its good bioavailability, cacao intake increases serum antioxidant capacity which protects the endothelium from oxidative stress and endogenous reactive oxygen species (those horrible free radicals that wreak havoc on our body). The flavonoids in Cacao also contributes to its protective and healing effects, including its anti-inflammatory immunomodulatory, antioxidant properties and DNA repair activities properties that can help support skin disorders including skin issues associated with excessive exposure to UV light.
You see cacao is rich in polyphenols, which are a type of naturally occurring antioxidant found in many vegetables and fruit. These wonderful polyphenols have been shown to reduce inflammation within the body by mopping up all those nasty free radicals that can harm our cellular structure and can lead to cell damage, dermal structure deterioration and premature skin aging and disease.
Cacao can even help to support blood sugar levels to avoid those mid-day energy slumps by reducing the sugar burden on the liver and avoiding the sugar peaks that we get from high sugar and processed foods.
Dark chocolate is also an important source of copper, and this mineral is required for iron transport through the body, glucose metabolism, infant growth and brain development.
Thinking of improving your heart health, well cacao has you covered…
Cacao has been shown to help improve blood pressure by increasing levels of a compound called nitric oxide in the blood which can ultimately lower your risk of heart attacks and strokes by relaxing and dilating the arteries and blood vessels and improve blood flow through the body. Similarly, this effect can also improve cholesterol levels by reducing LDL cholesterol in the body.
Not only does Cacao support your heart but these amazing polyphenols can also reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases by improving the blood flow to the brain and improving brain function. By crossing the blood brain barrier, they have a positive effect on the health of your brain.
And we are not even finished, Cacao is also high in iron with as much as 20% of your RDA from just 1oz of dark chocolate but remember that plant-based sources of iron from foods such as cacao, are not as easily absorbed but by adding vitamin C rich foods increases absorption by up to 67% so get dipping those strawberries into some delicious melted dark chocolate.
And I’m sure you will agree that chocolate is a firm favourite for many and although cacao is a wonderful nutrient packed superfood, we should be looking at the good nutrient dense sources of cacao/chocolate such as raw cacao which is great used in smoothies, mixed into porridge, made into a rich hot chocolate and opting for chocolate with a cacao content of 85% or more will give you those amazing health benefits. Try to avoid the low cacao content chocolate such as milk or white chocolate as these unfortunately do not have the same amazing health benefits and are normally laden with high sugar content.
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