Chocolate is one of the world's favorite desserts, and for some people, it has its own food group. Dating back to 1900 BC in Mexico and Central America, cultures have used chocolate in many capacities for over three millennia. Ancient civilizations like the Mayans and Aztecs knew the health benefits of chocolate and used it to make a beverage they referred to as "bitter water." Cacao and dark chocolate offer potassium, calcium, vitamin C, iron, copper, and magnesium are all important vitamins and minerals for your body's functioning.
Considered a superfood, dark chocolate and cacao contain a number of healthy chemicals like flavonoids and theobromine that act as disease-fighting substances and natural mood boosters. You can find even more health benefits when it's darker: dark chocolate contains more flavonoids, which means potentially greater value for your health.
Recent research indicates that the health benefits of chocolate extend to cardiovascular health and cancer prevention. A long-term German study found that a square of dark chocolate daily not only lowered blood pressure, but reduced risk of heart attack by almost 40%. Chocolate with high levels of flavonols can boost the skin's sun-protecting ability, slowing or reducing the risk of skin cancer.
Dark chocolate is great brain food, too. One of many natural mood boosters, dark chocolate stimulates the production of serotonin and endorphins in the brain. Higher levels of these pleasure chemicals can improve mood and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In addition, chocolate can increase blood circulation to the brain, improving your ability to focus.
When eaten in moderation, you can reap the health benefits of chocolate while enjoying a delicious treat. While milk chocolate contains smaller amounts of the vitamins, minerals, and healthy chemicals, look for dark chocolate containing 60% or more cocoa to maximize its benefit which is in many of our chocolate gift baskets.