Though I confess to the occasional chocolate bacchanal, it is best enjoyed in moderation with deliberation. Life is too short for cheap chocolate. With summer here, many of us are facing bathing suit season with a pledge to eat healthier and exercise more. For some of us, that means giving up junk food and chocolate is often mistakenly miscategorized in that group despite its numerous health benefits.
Chocolate is not just delicious, it's also nutritious and contains vitamins A, B1, C, D, and E, as well as potassium, sodium, iron, and fluorine.
Many don't realize that chocolate is a plant-based food - just like all those fruits and veggie recommended for a healthy heart. Chocolate is made from theobroma cacao - literally, "the food of the gods." Cacao is typically grown in hot, humid climates in Africa and South America.
For centuries, chocolate has been used as an aphrodisiac and to treat all sorts of human conditions, including depression and PMS. Chocolate contains the same antioxidant phenol -- this is the "feel good" antioxidant also found in red wine. In fact, a dark chocolate bar contains greater amounts of phenol than wine!
Studies have shown that dark chocolate provides the greatest health benefits. That doesn't get us off the hook for an all chocolate diet! Make sure to balance the caloric content of chocolate with changes in the rest of your diet: 1 oz contains around 150 calories and can be up to 50% fat. Raw cacao is a great tasting alternative if you are interested in the benefits of chocolate without the sugar found in most chocolate candy.