Craving chocolate? If you tend to feel guilty each time you give into your chocolate cravings, read on because as you’re about to learn, there’s no reason to. While sure, if you feast on a king sized candy chocolate bar, you aren’t going to be doing yourself any favours, if you opt for dark chocolate with a high percentage of Cacao (or simply use our pure Cacao all on its own), you’ll be reaping a great many benefits.
And, you’ll be satisfying your craving all at the same time.
So what’s so great about Cacao and why include it in your diet plan (like you need a reason!)? Let’s go over the many health benefits that Cacao has to offer.
Improved Cardiovascular Health
The first reason to indulge in that chocolate craving is that it’ll do your heart good. A study recently published in the Circulation journal noted that a regular dietary intake of plant-derived foods and beverages all help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, but of those plant based foods, Cacao may be an important mediator.
The researchers noted that Cacao can help to lower blood pressure, decrease insulin resistance, and may also help to enhance vascular and platelet function.
They noted that there are likely a few different reasons that Cacao is exerting this effect but stated that it's most likely to do with the activation of nitric oxide in the body and the fact that Cacao is so rich in antioxidants. It also provides anti-inflammatory benefits to the body, so this too will help increase your overall heart health.
Let’s not forget the reduction in stress you get from eating Cacao. While this may be in part a psychological phenomenon, there’s no denying the fact that most people simply feel better after biting into a piece of chocolate.
As stress can create many different health woes on the body including high blood pressure, increased rates of depression, as well as contributing to heart health problems, anything you can do to decrease stress is going to work in your favour.
So think of serving yourself up some Cacao as part of your stress therapy program. Over the long term, it can do you a world of good.
Lower Cholesterol Levels
In addition to providing the heart health benefits as noted above, a steady intake of Cacao in your diet may also help to lower the levels of bad cholesterol in the body, further increasing your overall heart health profile.
Many people in today’s times are currently on high blood pressure medication in an attempt to lower their levels, so Cacao could stand to be a great natural treatment to consider instead.
Decreased Risk Factor For Diabetes
When most people think of eating chocolate, they tend to think of a substance that will actually increase your risk factor for diabetes. Most of the milk chocolate products out there do contain high amounts of sugar – sugar that will without a doubt make you more at risk of developing diabetes.
But, if you go in for some dark chocolate prepared with mostly Cacao, you’ll do the opposite. As this can help to decrease insulin resistance, which is one of the hallmark traits of diabetes, it’ll move you in the right direction towards combating this condition.
The better the insulin sensitivity you have, the easier it’ll be to maintain your body weight as your body will be better equipped to handle the consumption of carbohydrates in your diet plan.
Improved Circulation And Blood Flow
Consuming Cacao as part of your diet plan is also a great way to help increase the levels of circulation taking place in the body, augmenting blood flow. For those who may struggle with circulatory issues, adding a small dose to their day could help provide a natural remedy for this condition.
This is also due to the fact that Cacao will help increase nitric oxide in the body, which is a substance that causes the blood vessels to dilate.
Cacao and Weight Loss
Finally, adding Cacao to some of your recipes will provide a stronger flavour, which may mean you have to reduce the addition of other high-fat, high sugar ingredients. This in turn can mean your dishes are more weight-loss friendly, helping to promote better overall fat loss results.
And given the fact most people do tend to crave chocolate when dieting, if you introduce Cacao into your plan and combat that craving, that may help you feel more satisfied with the rest of the meals in your day.
This means you stay the course on your diet that much better.
So there you have some of the important health benefits to gain by adding Cacao to your daily diet plan. There are many ways to include Cacao into your program including adding it to main course meals, sprinkling it into your baking, topping a bowl of oatmeal with it and some Stevia, or preparing a mug of hot chocolate with Cacao instead.
And even better is the fact that when heated, Cacao appears to release even more of the powerful antioxidant compounds it contains, so try and serve it in this manner as often as you can.
Choosing pure Cacao rather than chocolate also means a lower total calorie, fat, and sugar content (along with a higher dose of fibre), so it’s one ingredient you definitely do not need to feel guilty about including in your menu.
So chocolate lovers can rejoice, it’s now a perfectly acceptable weight-loss friendly addition to any diet plan.
*Reference: Corti, Roberto, et al. "Cacao and cardiovascular health." Circulation 119.10 (2009): 1433-1441.
...and remember, qualified nutritionists at Healthy Being are available to offer further general advice to help guide you in selecting the right products. So please, feel free to contact us at anytime!
Shannon Clark is a qualified nutritionist and a regular contributor to HB Insights. She specialises in weight control and management as well as optimal fitness performance. She's devoted to helping readers obtain their own personal best health and fitness and stays on top the latest trends in the industry.