You're starting a diet or lifestyle change, so cutting out chocolate is a must, right? Not so fast...
One of the foods that people seem to miss most when dieting is chocolate. But what if they didn't have to cut out chocolate in the first place? Although at first glance, chocolate might seem like an unhealthy option, there are many ways that eating chocolate can be a helpful tool in toning up and staying in shape.
When we consume chocolate, there is an increase of blood flow to the brain as well as an increase in serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is known to boost mood and energy levels, helping us feel energetic and happy. There are many studies that have found a correlation between cocoa consumption and a decrease in anxiety, stress and depression.
When we feel stressed or down, it is hard to find the drive to go and workout and be active, but when we are happy and full of energy, we want to get out and use our bodies, helping us stay in shape!
Another effect of cocoa that helps us tremendously is a decrease in inflammation markers found in our blood. Recently there has been a lot of research and discussion over how crucial to our wellbeing it is to reduce inflammation.
Stress and poor diet are two of the leading causes of chronic inflammation, and when we experience chronic inflammation, we can experience difficulty in digesting and absorbing the nutrients from our food. Disorders such as heart disease and stroke are also thought to be caused by inflammation.
While it is important to initiate a healthy diet and exercise regimen, simply eating chocolate is a great way to fight off inflammation!
Lastly, cocoa displays antioxidant properties in the form of dietary flavonols. These antioxidants may help to reduce the impact of free radicals post workout. When we exercise, our bodies produce an increased amount of free radicals, which are known to lead to cell damage and oxidative stress.
With all of that said, it is important to remember that not all chocolate is created equal, so you may not want to take this as an opportunity to eat any type of chocolate you can get your hands on - how you get your cocoa is very important. Many people might recommend dark chocolate as the healthy option, however unsweetened baking chocolate is even better for us.
Dark chocolate, and most other chocolates, are made when chocolate liquor, which is pressed from the cocoa bean and then combined with cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla and lecithin. Unsweetened baking chocolate goes through a similar process, however you leave out the cocoa butter and the sugar, leaving more of what is good for us and less of what hinders our progress.
Unsweetened cocoa powder is roughly 82% cocoa solids, while unsweetened baking chocolate is 47% and dark chocolate is only 23%. That said, you may find unsweetened baking cocoa to be too bitter to eat in its natural form. How do you get around this while still keeping it healthy? You can add raw organic cocoa powder to your smoothie, or try this recipe for spicy fat burning chocolate covered strawberries!
Spicy Chocolate Covered Strawberries
- 1 Pint Fresh Strawberries, Rinsed and Dried
- 1/4 cup Raw, Unsweetened Organic Cocoa Powder
- 1/4 cup Organic Coconut Oil
- 2 T. honey (or substitute 1/3 tsp. Stevia extract, if preferred)
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp powdered cayenne pepper
- Dash of Salt
- Rinse and completely dry strawberries on a paper towel. Let continue at room temperature while preparing the chocolate.
- Line a baking sheet with wax paper and coat lightly with a coconut oil spray.
- Melt the cocoa powder and coconut oil together in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining ingredients.
- Dip lower half of each strawberry into the chocolate mixture, letting excess chocolate drip back into the pan. Place on waxed paper lined baking sheet.
- Refrigerate uncovered for 30 minutes, or until chocolate is firm. Store covered in refrigerator so the chocolate does not soften.
Enjoy and let us know what you think!
- The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks’ Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets. Page 241. https://books.google.com/books?id=KW1c0Eo0YeAC&pg=PA241#v=onepage&q&f=false
- The effects of acute post exercise consumption of two cocoa-based beverages with varying flavonoid content on indices of muscle recovery following downhill treadmill running
- An Associate of Cocoa Consumption with Improved Physical Fitness and Decreased Muscle Damage and Oxidative Stress in Athletes.
- Dark Chocolate and Serotonin Levels
- The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance
- In the Journal: Cocoa Reduces Inflammation Associated with Heart Disease
Take Control Of Your Health
Some of the best spices that you enjoy on food can also be available in capsules to get the most benefit out of them! Take a look at how you can use Turmeric to your advantage to reduce inflammation and improve mood and energy!