Chocolate is the only ingredient that is its very own food group.
Well not really—but it seems as if it should be. Powerfully comforting, creamy, delicious—many people eat chocolate at least several times a week.
Which begs the question…
Is Chocolate Good for You?
The answer is both yes and no.
Chocolate has been used for centuries to treat bronchitis, sexual malaise, fatigue, hangovers, anemia, depression, memory loss, high blood pressure, poor eyesight, and more. It also helps release that feel-good neurotransmitter—serotonin—in the brain.
But eat the wrong kind and you’ll get loads of sugar, calories, and junky ingredients.
How to Eat it Responsibly
Chocolate begins life as raw cacao (pronounced kah-kow) beans. Loaded with antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and plant phenols, cacao is a powerful superfood. The more processed cacao becomes, however—think commercially produced candy bars—the fewer healthy components remain.
So, how to get the most out of your chocolate fix?
- Don’t be afraid of the dark. The darker the chocolate, the more beneficial cacao it contains.
- Know your percentages: the number on dark chocolate packaging refers to the percentage of cacao bean in chocolate. For maximum health benefit, look for dark chocolate that has 75% to 85% cacao.
- Go raw—or as unprocessed as possible.
- Savor – let the chocolate square completely melt on your tongue.
Looking for more fun ways to enjoy your favorite food? You’ll love this dark chocolate treat. Invite some friends over and make a batch!
Recipes from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Yields: 4 people
4 firm bananas 1 teaspoon olive oil 1-inch piece grated fresh ginger 1 tablespoon cinnamon 1/2 tablespoon nutmeg 1/2 cup raisins
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Peel and cut bananas in half, lengthwise.
- Oil a baking pan and arrange bananas.
- Sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg and raisins.
- Cover and bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Wonderful with chocolate sauce.
Chocolate Covered Pomegranate
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes
Yields: 8 people
2 pomegranates (seeds only) 1 10 oz bag of high quality organic dark chocolate (Enjoy Life.)
- Melt chocolate on stove.
- Mix in pomegranate seeds until fully covered in chocolate.
- Spoon out in droppings onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Credit: Courtesy of Kristi Cheek
Chef Karolina’s Raw Chocolate Truffles
Prep time: 20 minutes
Makes 25 truffles
1 cup raw cacao powder
1 cup cashews or macadamia nuts
½ cup maple syrup
Water (to mix)
Roll-in ingredients: shredded coconut, chopped nuts, chocolate nibs, raw sugar, cacao powder, ginger, or something else you love.
- Mix cashews in a food processor until a powder, adding enough water to create a thick paste.
- Add maple syrup to cashews and pulse to process.
- Add cacao powder. Pulse to process.
- Refrigerate for four hours or overnight for best results.
- Form teaspoon-sized balls of dough. Coat balls in your chosen roll-in ingredients!