Ancient Mayans referred to cacao as the “food of the gods”. And no, it’s not just because of its seriously delicious taste. Cacao beans—the base for chocolate, as you may know—are loaded with fiber and nutrients, like iron, copper, manganese, potassium, zinc and more.
Well that’s good news, right? But what do all these “healthy” things do? Here are just a few of the benefits of adding chocolate to your diet.
A mega source of antioxidants.
More than blueberries, in fact! Studies show that antioxidants protect cells from free radicals that contribute to aging. I'll eat to that.
Good for your heart!
Cacao has been proven to improve circulation, lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Protect your skin from sun damage.
The flavanols (aka plant-based nutrients) in cacao beans increases blood flow to the skin, shielding it from sun-induced damage.
Improve your gut health.
Your gut has good bacteria and bad bacteria. The good bacteria really like to feast on dark chocolate, which helps them grow and protect your gut.
For real, though—cacao increases production of serotonin, which explains why we crave more chocolate during the winter months, when we get less sunlight and Vitamin D.
Before you hit up the candy aisle, make sure to choose your chocolate wisely!
To get the maximum health benefits from your chocolate bar, buy organic (preferably raw) dark chocolate without additives like dairy or processed sugar. Be sure to read the ingredients, and trust me: you will soon start craving the good stuff not just because of its nutritional value, but also for its taste.
Raw cacao (powder and nibs!) are a pantry staple in my home, and used in everything from smoothies to hot drinks and baking.
In honor of the almighty bean, here is one of my favorite recipes using raw cacao.
CHOCOLATE CHERRY NO BAKE COOKIES
Prep: 15 minutes (plus 30 minutes to chill)
Makes about 10 cookies
- ⅓ cup raw cocoa powder
- ¼ cup raw agave nectar or maple syrup
- ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- ¼ cup almond butter
- 1 ½ cups gluten-free oats
- ⅓ cup shredded coconut
- ¼ cup raw cacao nibs
- ¼ cup dried cherries, diced
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of Maldon sea salt
Start by mixing agave or maple syrup and cacao powder in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until fully combined.
Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients, stirring until the dough is completely mixed together. Then spoon one tablespoon of dough onto a baking sheet or platter lined with parchment paper and form into a flat disc.
Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes before eating.
- These bad boys are totally customizable—use any nut butter, dairy free milk and dried fruit that you like (or have in your pantry already).
- You can also make them into energy balls instead of cookies.
- Great for traveling or as an “on-the-go” snack.
If you're looking for more healthy, delicious dessert recipes. Check out my ebook.