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The Surprising Reason Chocolate is SO Healthy!

The Surprising Reason Chocolate is SO Darn Healthy

Chocolate is something of a miracle food — it can ease depression, boost circulation, lower blood pressure, and even help you lose weight. In a strange correlation, it could even make you more likely to win a Nobel Prize! To think, all of this bang in one, tiny, delectable package. But, why? How do the compounds in chocolate react in our bodies to produce such dramatic results? The answer lies within you.

In keeping with the wave of interest in our microbiomes and their effect on our health, recent research shows that the good bacteria in our stomachs, like Bifidobacterium, actually thrive on chocolate. That’s right, your good bacteria love chocolate just as much as you do. Within these bacteria, the chocolate gets fermented and converted into various, anti-inflammatory compounds. These anti-inflammatories then travel throughout the body, spreading their good cheer, so to speak, to the heart, brain, blood, and beyond.

These findings, unveiled at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society, come from research associated with the cocoa solids — cocoa powder — so no sugar was present (which feeds less desirable gut dwellers). The powder is known to contain several antioxidants, known as polyphenols, and a bit of fiber — which keeps it moving along when digested. All of this makes bitter cocoa an ideal fuel for the hungry, friendly bacteria in your digestive system — and you can be sure they will pass on the benefits to you. Their feast can result in higher endorphins, less depression, and enhanced heart health, among countless other benefits, for you. A couple of teaspoons of cocoa powder in your smoothie might be just the trick to balance out health and deliciousness for a perfect breakfast!

Remember, not all chocolate is created equal. If you opt for a chocolate bar, be sure it is dark, as in 85% or greater. Too much sugar could negate the benefits. If that’s too bitter for your taste, add a small dollop of raw honey to very dark chocolate for a double-whammy of health benefits and palatable sweetness.

Without your microcosm of gut bacteria, chocolate might not pose nearly as many benefits to your health. Keep your gut balanced with probiotics and a balanced diet — and make sure to give your micro-critter friends a big thank-you with a health-boosting treat of dark chocolate once in a while.

( Leesa recommends Vivani organic 85% dark choclate)

By Jordyn Cormier

Jordyn Cormier

Jordyn is a choreographer, freelance writer, and an avid outdoors woman. Having received her B.F.A. in Contemporary Dance from the Boston Conservatory, she is passionate about maintaining a healthy body, mind, and soul through food and fitness. A lover of adventure, Jordyn can often be found hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, and making herself at home in the backcountry! Check out what else Jordyn has been up to at jordyncormier.com.

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Leesa Wheeler

Leesa A. Wheeler

Healthy Lifestyle Coach, Artisan, Author

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3 Chocolates Making a Difference!

3 Chocolates Making a Difference

 

When we think of decadent indulgence, we often think of chocolate.  And  with the antioxidants present in dark chocolate, this indulgence (in moderation,  of course) has some health benefits, as well.  But there is a growing trend  in the world of chocolate towards offering products that are socially and  environmentally responsible, as well.  Below are three chocolate companies  that promote fair  trade practices and use organic  ingredients.  All products are available at most Whole Foods locations, as  well as online and at many independent health food stores.

Theo Chocolate

Seattle based Theo  Chocolate was the first producer of organic chocolate in the United States.   Prior to the company’s launch in 2006, all organic chocolate available in  the U.S. was imported, primarily from Europe. Theo prioritizes fair trade  practices, and purchases its cocoa directly from farmers and farmer  co-operatives.  The company also strives to maintain long-term  relationships with farmers, in order to support the economic health of the  communities in which the farmers live and work.  And the ingredients for  the chocolate bars are cultivated using sustainable farming practices.

Theo uses only simple, natural ingredients.  The chocolate doesn’t  contain emulsifiers like soy lecithin, which many chocolate companies use to add  artificial creaminess to their products.  The result is a bar with an  intense cocoa flavor – perfect for the chocolate purist.

Equal Exchange Chocolate

Equal Exchange is a  Massachusetts company that offers a range of fair trade, organic products  including chocolate bars, coffee, tea, cocoa, bananas, olive oil, and  almonds.  The cocoa is sourced from farmer co-operatives in the Dominican  Republic, Panama, Peru, and Ecuador.  Similarly, the sugar comes from  co-operatives in Paraguay.  Even the vanilla, from Madagascar, is fair  trade.

In addition to being organic and ethically sourced, Equal Exchange bars cater  to the chocolate connoisseur.  They are produced using the same methods  made famous by the Swiss, resulting in a gourmet bar that will win over the  toughest chocolate snobs.

Alter Eco Chocolate

Like Equal Exchange, San Francisco based Alter  Eco offers a variety of fair trade, organic products.  Alter Eco works  exclusively with small-scale farmers to ensure equitable trading  relationships.

The company works with chocolatiers in Switzerland, but with flavors like  dark quinoa chocolate, its bars are sure to appeal to the health nut as much as  the chocoholic.

By Sarah Cooke

Sarah Cooke is a writer living in California. She is interested in organic food and green living. Sarah holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from  Naropa University, an M.A. in Humanities from NYU, and a B.A. in Political  Science from Loyola Marymount University. She has written for a number of  publications, and she studied Pastry Arts at the Institute for Culinary  Education. Her interests include running, yoga, baking, and poetry. Read more on her blog.

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