Yes!.. well… it depends. I love chocolate, it’s one of my favourite things in the world. I was a little worried when we first became vegan that chocolate was going to have to exit my life but, depending on the brand, dark chocolate doesn’t necessarily contain dairy and I like dark chocolate anyway.
Some other chocolate flavoured things, most notably chocolate ice cream, chocolate milkshake, and hot chocolate, don’t really feature in my life anymore. I just don’t find the vegan versions tasty, they just aren’t as creamy.
I think I just need to find the right recipe or brand or perhaps my palate still hasn’t adjusted to non-creamy flavours yet after all this time.
Sad, sad, sad. But, only the hot chocolate was an everyday thing for me, so whatevs. But you know when you just want a creamy sweet chocolate something?… Oh well.
Just the other day I baked a chocolate cake using this recipe. Admittedly, it’s not exactly healthiest and while I do want my blog to be about ways to be healthy, well, we all need a cheat day. Gotta live a little!
Cakes are not my strong suit at all, so instead of trying to substitute healthier ingredients, I followed the recipe as best I could given the fact that I don’t have a kitchen scale at the moment. It came out wonky but tasty.
This blog post, however, is not about cake. It’s about the fact that we can enjoy chocolate and not feel too bad. YAY!
The Healthiest Type of Chocolate
Unfortunately for those of you who enjoy white chocolate or milk chocolate, these are not the healthy varieties. Dark chocolate is. Not all dark chocolate is made equal though. The following things make a healthy chocolate bar:
- 70% and up cocoa or cacao content
- Low sugar content
You should try and stick to the recommended serving size, i.e. this means, don’t eat the entire slab. Depending on the size of the blocks, 2-6 blocks is usually one serving. But to be safe because most chocolate bars have a high sugar and fat content, try to stick to one or two blocks if you like to eat some every day.
Cocoa is The Real Superstar
Cocoa is good. Cacao is even better. Cacao is raw whereas cocoa has been processed at high temperatures which does affect the nutritional quality a bit, but either way you win. Here are a few proven health benefits of cocoa:
Specifically, polyphenols and flavenols. Cocoa is a rich source of these antioxidants that are so good for our heart and brain health. Cocoa consumption has resulted in lower triglyceride levels (blood fat) and better HDL (good cholesterol) levels.
It also improves cognitive function, protects nerves, and helps with the growth new nervous tissue, so it helps our entire central nervous system, not just our brains.
Ever felt better after eating chocolate? Yes, it could be because our brains treat sugar like a drug and everytime you eat something with sugar in it your brain loves it. Sad, but true. Sugar is so addictive.
But, more than that, cocoa itself actually boosts your mood too, so even when eating sugar-free chocolate goodies, things start looking up.
A little inflammation is helpful since it’s how the body fights off infection and heals wounds, but too much is just plain bad. We stress, eat unhealthy foods, breathe in polluted air, etc, which increases inflammation in our bodies.
We can all use the inflammation lowering properties of cocoa.
Helps direct glucose to our muscles
All the carbs you eat (and no, not all carbs are bad. Whole grains and starchy veggies provide fibre and nutrients) turn into glucose which is then used as fuel by your body.
Cocoa helps the glucose get to our muscles where it’s needed in order for us to perform daily tasks and exercise.
Aids weight loss
Seems surprising, but cocoa may just help us to lose weight by helping to decrease hunger levels. Of course, we aren’t rats or rabbits as the participants in the study were, so I guess the jury is still out on whether it actually helps humans to lose weight.
Makes you feel better anyway tough, doesn’t it? Oh yeah 😀
Cocoa is a source of iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamin B2 to name a few.
Cocoa and Acne
There is a downside, though. If you struggle with acne and find that food is a trigger for you, it may be the chocolate. It was first thought that maybe it’s the sugar in the chocolate, but sadly, it really is the cocoa.
The studies were only done on men since women often get hormonal acne, something I am struggling to get rid of now that I am off the pill, but I did find that if I eat crazy amounts of sugar and chocolate and fatty foods, I get more pimples and not necessarily along my jawline where hormonal acne likes to manifest.
This past weekend, there was a lot of chocolate cake involved. It was not good for my skin. But thankfully, a few blocks of chocolate here or there or eating cocoa in my food doesn’t do any harm, it’s just when I go overboard. You will have to consider whether it’s a trigger for your acne.
Other Possible Causes of Acne
Other things that may be to blame for acne, even hormonal acne, is dairy, sugar, and simple carbs like white bread, white pasta, and baked goodies. Not drinking enough water, and also, too much coffee. Noooo, not the coffee! Some of these things may be ingredients in chocolate, particularly the dairy and sugar, so bear that in mind too.
I am definitely going to keep chocolate to a minimum and I am back on the vitex and trying to keep my sugar intake down. So we’ll see how it goes.
Healthy Ways to Include Cocoa
- Put some in your oats
- Sprinkle your muesli or oats with cacao nibs
- Put some in your smoothies, it’s so yummy with bananas and apples
- Make chocolate pancakes (putting some flax seed powder in is another way to make your pancakes healthy)
- Put it in your yoghurt
- Chocolate chia seed pudding
- Make energy balls using dates, nuts, cocoa, and coconut, you can even add in some peanuts. Just blend it all together and roll it into balls and put them in the fridge.
So now, if you’ve been feeling a little guilty about your chocolate habits, you can relax a little. Chocolate bars might not necessarily be the best snack to have, but they’re not evil and you can make many chocolate flavoured goodies that are perfectly healthy by adding some cocoa powder or cacao nibs. No need to give up on chocolate altogether.
If you have more ideas on how to use cocoa in a healthy way, let me know, I would love to try them out 😀