Most of us can think of few foods we crave more often, or more intensely, than a rich, dark, seemingly sinful bar of chocolate. When we are on strict diet or exercise program, however, chocolate is precisely the one food we tend to leave out, perhaps from the fear that its normally high caloric/sugar count can cause us to pack on unwanted pounds, thereby steering us away from self-esteem that comes from feeling and looking our best. But what would you say if you knew that there was one type of chocolate that could actually boost your performance, beautify your skin and best of all, and help you stay trim despite offering one of life’s most pleasurable indulgences? It’s called raw chocolate, a beautiful dessert that you can quickly whip up in the comfort of your own home. In this short blog post we provide you with a few reasons why, when it comes to raw chocolate, it pays to give in to sweet temptation.
- Raw Chocolate Boosts Your Endurance: Whether you’re a runner, dancer or fitness buff, staying in it for the long haul, is key when it comes to reaching your goal. Endurance is far from the exclusive domain of athletes and sports enthusiasts, however; it is a key aspect to meeting the sometimes overwhelming demands of juggling work pursuits, family life and hobbies without crumbling under the pressure. A recent study published in The Journal of Physiology (2011) reveals that consuming epicatechin (a flavonoid found in dark chocolate) results in greater endurance capacity and a decreased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease in mice. In the study, 25 male mice were examined for 15 days to observe the effect of epicatechinon performance, muscle fatigue, etc. The mice fed on epicatechin had a 50 per cent increased treadmill performance and 30% enhanced muscle resistance, when compared to the control group of mice. The latter also grew tired quicker, even when performing only light exercises. Moreover,epicatechin consumption promoted greater mitochondrial (energy production) activity in the mice’s hind limbs.
You may be asking yourself what the study means to humans. The answer, say the researchers who conducted the study, is that similar results can be achieved if we consume just half a square of the average chocolate bar daily. Consuming too much chocolate, they said, could actually undo benefits, by overloading our muscles.
An important proviso when it comes to using chocolate to boost endurance is that it should be dark chocolate (i.e. above 70 per cent) and, if possible, it should be raw. This is because most commercially available chocolate actually contains very little chocolate: the average bar contains 50% refined white sugar, 30% milk solids and just 20% real chocolate! Moreover, commercial chocolate has usually bees heated at very high temperatures, a process which wrests vital benefits from the raw cacao bean. In addition to epicatechin, raw chocolate also contains phenylethylamine (PEA), often referred to as the “hormone of libido” because it increases the sex drive.
- Raw Chocolate is a Potent Source of Antioxidants: The delicious treat has three times more antioxidants than green tea, making it a daily dose compulsory.
- Raw Chocolate Has a High Fiber Content: If you need to lose weight, raw chocolate can actually be a great ally, since its high fiber content increases the sensation of fullness. It is likewise rich in the trace element known as chromium, which helps maintain normal glucose and insulin levels and aids in the metabolism of nucleic acids (the building blocks of DNA). Chromium likewise regulates cholesterol levels and inhibits the synthesis of fats found in carbohydrates, thus encouraging the mitochondria within cells to burn stored fat.
- Raw Chocolate Puts You In the Mood: Raw chocolate instantly ups the joy factor in your life, thanks to its ability to boost endorphin and serotonin levels in the brain. Chocolate also contains a neurotransmitter called anandamide, often referred to as “the bliss chemical” because it is released during moments of happiness.
- Raw Chocolate Promotes Cardiovascular Health: Raw chocolate reduces the risk of heart attack because it stops blood platelets from clumping together and forming clots.
- Raw Chocolate Aids in Recovery from Stroke: The same flavonoid that increases endurance (epicatechin) has also been found to protect the brain following a stroke, by shielding nerve cells from damage.
If you feel inspired to take up the raw chocolate challenge, you can either head for your favorite health store to stock up on the dark, good stuff, or make a batch yourself! You can make a full tray in as little as half an hour; there are wealth of interesting websites that provide all the recipes you could wish for. Once you learn the basics of chocolate making, raise the health factor by adding nuts, dried fruit and even essential oils to your standard recipe; we are sure your love affair with chocolate will last a lifetime.