Good Cacao bar for omega-3s tastes like sweet medicine not a Mounds. Photo by R.Cruger
With Easter comes egg hunts, peeps and chocolate bunnies. It's a sugar fest. So how can we indulge in bonbons and reap some health benefits? Studies show that cocoa contains antioxidants that are good for us. And besides being healthy for the physical heart by lowering blood pressure, dark chocolate also help us emotionally, by raising endorphins that make us feel better. Chocolatiers boast of a host of beneficial ingredients and now there are some extra nutrients with our candy bars. Organic fruits and veggies contain essential vitamins and minerals and now it seems chocolate is trying to join the food pyramid. Along with water fortified with vitamins, bread with fiber, yogurt with probiotics, and pasta with omega-3s, chocolate is joining the "functional food" parade with packing in extra health benefits.
Antioxidants in dark chocolate are believed to guard against free radical damage, plaque build-up, and high blood pressure. Cocoa also contains flavonoids such as resveratrol, found in red wine, and EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), a compound also found in green tea. And the procyanidins in cocoa are supposed to control inflammation - though the sugar in chocolates may cancel that benefit out.
In addition to the heart, some chocolate hopes to help your head. Can't hurt to see if they work. Here are some chocolates formulated for specific benefits:
Good Cacao Organic Superfood Chocolate Bars
These chocolate bars are infused with tastes and treatments formulated in four categories:
• Lemon Ginger for immunity
• Coconut with omega-3s
• Nutriberry for healthy heart
• Peppermint for a clear mind
The raw organic 70% Ecuadorian cacao is mixed with Peruvian lucuma and maca, Brazilian cupuacu, African baobab, and Madagascar vanilla beans. These chocolatiers slowly temper the heating and cooling process to blend in 16 superfoods and nutraceuticals that contribute to health including vitamins, minerals, live cultures and active enzymes for added value.
One ingredient "Nutriplankton," for instance, contains 54 trace minerals, amino acids, DHA, omega-3s, electrolytes, zinc, and selenium. Other blends contain oils, such as cinnamon bark and rosemary extract that possess antioxidants. Other contain super-fruits like mulberries, acai, blueberries, pineapple, raspberries, carrots, pomegranates, papayas, apples, beets, grape, and noni. And there's a veggie variety with more than 30 organic super-greens. Sounds like a supplement in a candy bar which makes it easier to swallow.
Xan Confections' CocoXan Chocolates
These chocolatiers make confections of all sorts but its R&D; department has also come up with functional chocolates for specific conditions:
• CocoBrain with Vitamin A, C, D3, E and Folic Acid
• CocoHeart packs in some CoQ10
• CocoPreggers includes vegetarian DHA
• CocoPMS has antioxidants Chasteberry and Bilberry
Navitas Naturals Chocolate Kits
Got an ice cube tray? Make your own chocolates with Navitas Naturals' organic, raw cocoa and sprinkled with superfoods, such as Goji berries and Goldenberries, packed with antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, and phytonutrients. These chocolates are sugar-free and dairy-free--add a touch of agave sweetener if desired, but it's not really necessary. Plus they're handmade by you.
Goji berries have been used in Chinese medicine for a host of issues, including carotenoids that improve eyes, protect the liver and kidneys and boost the immune system. The polysaccharides stimulate the pituitary gland, prevent fatigue, headaches and insomnia.
If you're craving chocolate, it might mean your body needs magnesium, so add some pumpkin seeds or raw nuts to your treat for an extra dose. Between the flavanols and flavor of cocoa, why not consider chocolate as medicine? Just be sure it's fair trade chocolate, even if a Kit-Kat.
More on cocoa:
Experts Warn of a Looming Chocolate Crisis
Focus on Focus Earth: A World Without Chocolate
Dark Chocolate Prevents Damage From Strokes, Study Says
Is Chocolate the Tastiest Natural Cough Medicine of All?