Why do we tend to think that healthy things must taste awful?
Perhaps it goes back to childhood. Maybe it’s because of foul-tasting medicines we were forced to choke down as kids.
Or maybe it’s because our parents made us eat foods we didn’t like because “they are good for you.”
I’m here to tell you that some of the healthiest things on the planet are also the most delicious.
Exhibit A: cacao.
The cacao tree is native to Central and South America. The ancient Mayans made a frothy drink from cacao seeds. You’ve consumed cacao seeds, too, if you’ve ever had chocolate or cocoa.
Regular milk chocolate contains way too much sugar to be healthy. But cacao in the form of dark chocolate is one of the healthiest things you can put in your mouth. The same goes for unsweetened cocoa drinks.
4 Ways Chocolate Improves Your Health
Science has documented many benefits…
- Lowers risk of heart disease. An article published in the Journal of Nutrition looked at 19 clinical trials that examined cocoa flavanols. Flavanols are compounds that are strong antioxidants. The researchers found convincing evidence that cocoa flavanols “have favorable effects” on cardiometabolic biomarkers.[i] A study presented in the British Cardiac Society journal Heart examined chocolate eating among 20,951 subjects. Researchers found that higher chocolate consumption was linked with lower heart attack risk.[ii]
- Improves mood. A study from Germany’s University of Tubingen concluded that cocoa can improve calmness and contentment.[iii]Research published in Frontiers in Pharmacology found cacao inhibited the breakdown of tryptophan in the body. Since tryptophan converts to serotonin, cacao could fight depression. Serotonin promotes a sense of well-being and happiness.[iv]
- Prevents anemia. We need iron for the production of red blood cells. Lack of iron can lead to anemia. Cacao is very rich in iron. Experts recommend consuming cacao with vitamin C, which enhances iron absorption.[v]
- Enhances brain function. A study from Italy’s University of L’Aquila recruited 90 elderly subjects. All had mild cognitive impairment. Over eight weeks, researchers gave the subjects drinks with different levels of cocoa flavanols. Subjects who consumed the highest amount of cocoa flavanols did the best on cognitive tests. They also had better insulin resistance and blood pressure.[vi]Research published in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment looked at 34 elderly volunteers. Scientists gave the subjects cocoa for two weeks. The subjects had 8% increased blood flow to the brain after one week.[vii]
There are a number of ways to add cacao to your diet. As I mentioned, avoid milk chocolate. Get dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cacao. The higher the cacao, the lower the sugar content.
Cacao drinks are another alternative. But check labels carefully before buying. Some contain a lot of sugar.
Cacao gives you the best of both worlds… It’s tastes good. And it’s good for you.