Laura Padron recently shared the benefits of chocolate on a previous blog. I want to zoom in today on one aspect of why women are naturally drawn to chocolate. As we view chocolate with a healthier perspective, we can selectively practice refining our palate, and step up our game choosing wholesome chocolates.
When my daughter was in high school, I remember her suffering with menstrual cramps. We were going out of town and needed some relief for her discomfort. I knew calcium helps the body regulate muscle contraction and magnesium helps release muscle contraction (including your heart muscle). We needed to get magnesium into her system.
Dark chocolate and almonds contain magnesium. Put the two together and you have a greater concentration of magnesium. Pumpkin seeds are very high in magnesium, but harder to find. Before reaching the highway, we found the closest grocery store and bought her a higher quality chocolate and a bag of almonds.
For some women, menstrual cramps can be quite intense and painful. “Cacao contains significant quantities of the essential amino acid tryptophan, a powerful mood-enhancing nutrient. The presence of tryptophan in the diet is critical for the production of serotonin, our primary neurotransmitter. Enhanced serotonin function typically diminishes anxiety and literally improves our neurological and physiological ‘stress-defense shield.'” Superfoods: The Food and Medicine of the Future by David Wolfe.
Chocolate triggers a natural chemical response in your body to help you relax mentally and physically. If you used to feel guilty because you craved chocolate once a month, it’s time to finally release any feelings of guilt! Healthier forms of chocolate are a nutritional benefit and should be eaten with that same mindset. This mindset gives you permission to eat chocolate without the former feelings of shame— I’m bad, I’m doing something wrong, etc..
Now, let’s set some boundaries. Freedom with Responsibility*. Not all chocolate is alike. Eating half a bag of Oreos does not count as chocolate. The majority of common candy bars displayed at the checkout line does not count as quality chocolate either. The sugar may trigger the endorphins, however, I’d rather invest my calorie allotment on foods that give me a better return. Small portions do the job just fine.
Dark chocolate packaging, that indicates a high percentage of the various forms of cacao or cocoa mass, solids, powder, liquor, beans, nibs, or butter is a healthier choice. The higher cacao or cocoa percentage in the 80’s, 90’s, is not sweet and is more of an acquired taste to a newly converted dark chocolate connoisseur. Don’t worry, your taste buds will adjust to this guilt free pleasure.
Cacao or cocoa also has multiple benefits for your heart and vessels. Since my husband has high blood pressure and cholesterol, spurred on by Laura’s reminder of the benefits of chocolate, I add one heaping teaspoon of cacao powder to our smoothies every morning. I don’t believe there is one specific food for the cure-all, however, I do believe that eating various combinations of foods created by God work as a team to benefit my health and yours. The less over processed foods we eat, and daily consume more plant-based foods, the stronger our body and our immune systems will be.
One more thing Laura mentioned was to look for chocolates that do not contain soy lecithin. A couple of weekends ago, we were checking out at Trader Joe’s. I only had time to look at the first bar I picked up, and I found an organic 72% cacao Belgian dark chocolate without soy lecithin.
If you find a dark chocolate without soy lecithin, please take a photo of it with your cell phone and post it to my Facebook page: Julie-Anne Yuccas. Tell us where you found it, and let’s find this healthy pleasure together! Thanks for your help!
Enjoy searching for, savoring, and adding this healthy food to your repertoire.
Blessings to your health!
* From Finishing the Race: Dieting Obsessions, Self-Criticism, and Insecurity Eat My Dust!, Chapter Fifteen.