Health Benefits of your Favorite Indulgence

Valentine’s Day has become another holiday filled with sweets, with chocolate playing the starring role. The good news? There are actually some health benefits in that heart shaped box, and we’re here to tell you about them!

Here are the top 3 health benefits of chocolate:

  • Chocolate is a powerful source of antioxidants: Antioxidants are our body’s way of protecting ourselves from free-radicals (aka the bad guys!). Free-radical damage happens from exposure to numerous activities of daily life (sun exposure, chemicals in food, toxins from plastic, etc.). By eating a diet high in antioxidants (such as flavanols and polyphenols found in cocoa), we can help to minimize the free-radical damage.
  • Chocolate is high in soluble fiber: When soluble fiber enters the body, it creates a gel-like substance in the stomach and swells. This swelling is important in producing satiety and telling your brain you are full. Soluble fiber has also been shown to lower LDL-cholesterol (“think L for lousy!”) by binding the LDL and pulling it out of the body. Cocoa may satisfy your sweet craving, provide fullness and may help your cholesterol? Who knew!
  • Chocolate may help you unwind: Cocoa is very high in the mineral magnesium. Although magnesium is most typically known for its important role in maintaining bone health, it is also commonly used to relieve anxiety. Magnesium is involved in relaxing your muscles, so that square of dark chocolate may be giving you an added relaxation push.

Let’s not get carried away here, not all chocolate is created equally. We recommend you enjoy dark chocolate (look for at least 70% cocoa or higher) to reap the most benefits. When possible, choose organic as to minimize the pesticides on the cocoa beans.

And as always, try to enjoy this treat mindfully 🙂

Do you feel like you struggle to limit how much chocolate you’re having? For many of us, chocolate is that type of thing that we open up the bag and it is suddenly gone. Get back in control this Valentine’s Day and try these few tips to keep your chocolate portion in check:

  • Pair it with some fat and protein: Instead of eating your chocolate alone, try pairing it with a good source of fat and protein. Fat and protein are nutrients that send signals to our brain that we have had enough, so they are key in preventing overindulgence. Next time, try a handful of walnuts alongside your square of dark chocolate!
  • Stick to one portion and put the package away: While chocolate has some health benefits, it is by no means a free food! Instead of tempting your will power, portion out a serving from the bar and put it away. Feel like you don’t want to do the portioning yourself? Buy individual packaged squares for easy, no-thinking portion control!
  • Eat without distractions: Instead of sitting in front of the TV and having the chocolate bar disappear before you even taste it, try sitting down with no distractions. When we focus on the food we are putting in our mouths, we can better taste the flavors and become more satisfied on less food.

Well, there you have it. With all your new chocolate knowledge, you are ready to face this Valentine’s Day in a healthy (and mindfully indulgent) way!

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Originally published in Self Magazine Experts increasingly favor five or