Unlike every other kid around the block or even adults now, I was never fond of chocolates. If it's available, that was okay, and if it's not, I'd never have sought it. I'd enjoy the occasional Nestle Milky Bar, Cadbury 5 star, or Dairy Milk/Crackle back in the 90s once a while if mum sent me to the nearby supermarket. I'd buy dark chocolates with the remaining money if any for dark chocolate benefits, or for my mum because Cadbury 5 star was her favourite; it still is.
Fast forward to 2015, I moved to Philadelphia, America, to pursue my Master's degree at 23 for the first time, leaving the comforts of a loving family, warm home, and the concept of domestic help. The initial few weeks were an emotional struggle to wrap my head, and life around the transformation hit me. Like every desi student, I carried some homemade dry snacks if I needed some emotional & mental cushioning (I had mathris made in pure ghee to endure the cold). My roommates thought I would pack my bags and bounce back to India. I did not. Instead, I fell in love two months later with the country and found a way to stay close to India in my heart.
My Zoroastrian Iranian best friend got me chocolates most times we met. I never really understood why. I bought Indian spices at the Indian grocery store and picked up Cadbury dairy milk off the shelf one day. Now, I do not purchase chocolates off the shelf, I still don't, but that day I did. I came back to my rented apartment, and post-dinner while watching Scandal (an American TV series), I ate that chocolate in bed - not the whole bar, but a couple of squares. It hit home. That warm, comforting feeling of being around your loved ones, your family, your birthplace, childhood was all rolled into one, and that brought a smile to my face. This was the ROYCE of feelings.
I have evolved from the good ol' Dairy Milk to an excellent, well-made artisanal less sugar dark chocolates benefits. I indulge in a nice small dark chocolate bar once a week, especially during PMS or grab a nice homemade hot chocolate drink when my girlfriends are over and binge-watch shows. I still never buy it though, like all good things, the Universe sends chocolates too at my doorstep when I least expect it and require it.
History of Chocolates
Chocolate is the "Food of the Gods", and the use of cocoa began with the Maya (the first people of South America to cultivate cocoa plants). For them, chocolate was a hot drink prepared with cocoa, cinnamon, and sometimes pepper and presented to Emperor Moctezuma II by the Aztecs. Christopher Columbus (yes, the same man who discovered America and colonized it) encountered it in 1502. He captured a canoe that contained cocoa beans that looked like "mysterious looking almonds" and identified it as a currency in the Mesoamerican region. Yup, I'd agree. Some well-made chocolates deserve that respect and honour. King Charles of Spain in 1528 named it "brown gold", and finally, in 1753, the Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus named it Theobroma Cacao which translates to the food of the gods. Historically, people consumed it for the healthy reasons to eat dark chocolate.
Types of Chocolates & Nutritional Content
There are four types of chocolates having varying levels of cocoa content.
Healthy reasons to eat dark chocolate are high due to the dark chocolate benefits. It has high cocoa and dark chocolate nutrition. They contain up to 80% cocoa solids and cocoa butter and no added sugar. It has an intense aroma, melts in the mouth with a pleasant bittersweet taste. The quality of this chocolate depends on the amount of cocoa present. Most health benefits of chocolates are associated with the consumption of dark chocolate due to the dark chocolate benefits.
It is brown and has a combination of hazelnut, cocoa, and sugar.
It contains cocoa butter, sugar, milk powder, lecithin, cocoa (about 20% to 25%). It has an intensely sweet aroma with a bright appearance and sweet bitter after taste.
It contains cocoa butter, milk, sugar, no cocoa and has a sweet after taste.
Cocoa is the primary ingredient of chocolate, with a significant amount of fat (40 - 50% as cocoa butter with 33% oleic acids, 25% palmitic acid, 33% stearic acid). Cocoa beans are the best sources of dietary polyphenols, and flavonoids are the most abundant form. Flavonoids fight off free radicals and hence are known to be anti-inflammatory and protective.
Purchase and Storage
- The highest amount of flavonoids are present in 70% dark chocolate or higher. Although, keep in mind that a higher percentage of cocoa solids will have a bitter taste, but there are healthy reasons to eat dark chocolate
- Always store your dark chocolate in a cool, dry area (preferably between 18 to 20-degree celsius) in a tightly sealed container or box.
- Please do not refrigerate your dark chocolate as most people do. It promotes the chocolate to "bloom," a whitish coating caused by sugar rising to the surface due to excess moisture. Although, blooming of chocolates does not affect flavour, they look unappetizing.
- Dark chocolates can last up to two years if stored under proper conditions.
Uses and Dark Chocolate Benefits
There are great healthy reasons to eat dark chocolate, which are mentioned below.
As an Aphrodisiac
The Aztecs considered chocolates as a royal aphrodisiac and the Mayans associated chocolates with their fertility god. And today, Sarah McLachlan says, "Your love is better than chocolate," which gives it a modern twist to the chocolate and love connection. Such are the dark chocolate benefits.
Here are some scientific facts:
Chocolate has the chemicals phenylethylamine and serotonin. These chemicals are considered to be mood boosters and mild sexual stimulants. Eating chocolate makes you feel good, even euphoric at times. But the aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate are more about the sensual pleasure of how it melts in your mouth than as a sexual stimulus. Therefore, you must not shy away from the dark chocolate benefits.
On Cardiovascular Systems
There are more dark chocolate benefits. Heart diseases are associated with various risk factors such as blood pressure, Diabetes, cholesterol (hyperlipidemia). One of the major contributing factors towards these bodily imbalances is diet and lifestyle, which comprises lack of healthy nutritious food, lack of exercise, and movement. Observational studies show flavonoids found in chocolates may reduce the risk of heart diseases and lower blood pressure. It protects the lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids from damage because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
It does not mean you start snacking on a bar of chocolate every day. You can include a homemade hot chocolate drink or a Auric dark chocolate a couple times a week, but make sure you maintain a healthy lifestyle as well to prevent cardiovascular diseases and hypertension. With such enormous dark chocolate benefits, embrace it.
Stimulation of the Nervous System
Dark chocolate benefits also include the stimulation of the nervous system. Flavonoids in cocoa have demonstrated positive effects and protection from neurodegeneration, neuroinflammation, and optimal functioning of neural pathways. Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease are the effects of neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration. Consumption of pure flavonoid enriched chocolate possibly prevents neurons' death, thereby keeping the nervous system healthy. Cocoa also increases cerebral blood flow, which can be neuroprotective and support the formation of long-term memory. Dark chocolate benefits enhance cognitive function, making for one of the healthy reasons to eat dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate benefits extend to skincare. Most skin moisturizers have cocoa butter as their main ingredient, but cocoa benefits extend beyond its topical use. Many studies have identified flavonoids in cocoa as a protective agent for the skin against harmful UV rays. Consumption of 12 weeks of high flavanol cocoa, like in Auric dark chocolate, increases dermal blood flow and oxygen to the skin-enhancing protection. Limited studies show this effect, but there is a reason to believe skin protection is one of the many dark chocolate benefits as it has antioxidant benefits and is one of the healthy reasons to eat dark chocolate.
Improve Blood Sugar Levels
Dark chocolate benefits include improved blood sugar levels. Daily chocolate intake doesn't sound like the best way for diabetes prevention. All you need to know about type 2 diabetes treatment. Still, studies have shown healthy amounts of dark chocolate good for you, the one rich in cacao, like Auric dark chocolate, could improve how your body metabolizes glucose. Insulin resistance causes high blood sugar, which is a telltale sign of type 2 diabetes.
A published study in October 2017 showed flavonoids present in dark chocolate reduce oxidative stress. As per scientists, oxidative stress is the primary cause of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is reduced by improving your body's sensitivity to it, reducing the risk of diseases such as Diabetes. Such are dark chocolate health benefits.
Another published study in January 2017 in a journal showed that participants who hardly consumed chocolates had twice the risk of developing Diabetes five years down the road than participants who indulged in products with dark chocolate health benefits at least once a week. Researchers agree on the dark chocolate health benefits and the healthy reasons to eat dark chocolate. However, further studies need to be published to determine the cause and effect of chocolate consumption and Diabetes.
Increase Good Cholesterol, Decrease Bad Cholesterol
Healthy reasons to eat dark chocolate include that dark chocolate is known as cholesterol lowering food, which is one of the dark chocolate health benefits. A handful of almonds, Auric dark chocolate and unsweetened cocoa show a significant drop in bad cholesterol, also known as LDL (low-density lipoprotein). Bad cholesterol in high amounts can clog blood vessels of the arteries.
Cocoa butter present in Auric dark chocolate might also play a part in increasing good cholesterol, also known as HDL (high-density lipoprotein). Cocoa butter contains oleic acid, and it is a monounsaturated fat - the same fat found in olive oil healthy for your heart. However, it also has saturated fat, which in excess can be detrimental to your heart health. Hence when consuming chocolates, to ensure dark chocolate health benefits, portion control is a must! Also, know how ayurveda can lower cholesterol.
Dark chocolate benefits are such that there is not one person I know who would deny good cocoa when feeling low, so dark chocolate good for you. My best friend, who is moving to Guatemala at the end of the month, visited me last week, and I had prepared a hot cocoa drink made using Auric dark chocolate for her as it's one of her favourites. She came over and said she couldn't consume it as she had had fish for dinner, as it wouldn’t be the best time to eat dark chocolate. She waited two hours to have the drink; that is the power of a good hot chocolate drink and the importance of the best time to eat dark chocolate. It's like the first embrace of a mother to her child. You wait, and when the wait is over, you know it was worth it.
- Dark chocolate benefits and dark chocolate nutrition are that it is rich in minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, copper, iron, zinc, and magnesium. Low levels of magnesium are known to cause PMS symptoms. Maybe that's why during PMS, we crave dark chocolate nutrition (which does not mean supplementing chocolates instead of magnesium). Still, it does have a psychological and physiological role to play. A bar of good chocolate immediately lifts your spirits due to the dark chocolate nutrition. When you are low, it might be the best time to eat dark chocolate.
- Not just for women, dark chocolate benefits for men are also enormous. It has shown to alleviate feelings of low moods, irritability, and anxiety in men as well, as it is a feel-good factor in our day-to-day lives. It does not mean it treats clinical symptoms but helps uplift the mood, which are dark chocolate benefits for men and women alike and is the best time to eat dark chocolate.
- Dark chocolate benefits for men and women also include that it helps calm and relaxes your mind after a long stressful day, or just a little square post-dinner or lunch to close the door of any more food cravings, as it is the best time to eat dark chocolate. You do not need studies proving these, as we know within ourselves that it feels good.
In conclusion, I'd like to add that dark chocolate health benefits are great, but we must differentiate between a bar of great dark chocolate like Auric dark chocolate and the commercially available ones in stores. Commercially available mass-produced chocolates do not have any dark chocolate health benefits and are high in sugar. If you start consuming high amounts of commercially available chocolates, thinking of reaping dark chocolate health benefits like preventing Diabetes, reducing cholesterol, improving your skin etc., then god bless your soul. It will more likely cause sugar dependency, weight gain and acne. Be smart about what you consume, where you buy it from, and what is the best time to eat dark chocolate. You are good to go!
Auric dark chocolate is one of the best options as it has dark chocolate nutrition and dark chocolate health benefits which come through because of best quality cocoa. It comes by the name of Auric Hot Chocolate with Ashwagandha and possesses the goodness of this ayurvedic herb which increases the dark chocolate benefits for men and women alike. To ensure dark chocolate health benefits are reaching you, opt for nothing but Auric dark chocolate and consider the ayurvedic benefits of consuming Ashwagandha Hot Chocolate.
Authored by: Padmaja Rai
About the Author: Padmaja is a healthcare consultant and avid fitness enthusiast. She holds a masters' in bio-innovation and rare diseases from University of Pennsylvania. She is a firm believer in ancient Indian holistic healing.