PJ's Fitness Blog

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Chocolate Lovers Unite!

There has been a lot of press lately about chocolate and it’s health benefits – especially when Valentine’s day is just around the corner. Chocolate is one of the most common Valentine’s day gifts and there is good reason for that, both on a conscious and a subconscious level.

First, most chocolates have sugar, which temporarily medicates your brain with chemicals that make you feel happy. The downside however, is this “high” only lasts about a hour and then things start to return to normal – and then worse – within about two hours. At that point, the sugar has worn off, your blood insulin levels are spiked, your metabolism is in a fat storing mode, your mood is worse than before eating the chocolate and so is your energy. This makes conventional chocolate a bad idea overall. But take heart, there are some yummy solutions! Just read on.

Chocolate is indeed known to mimic the feelings of being “in love.” This is due to a chemical found in chocolate called phenylethylamine, which is part of a group of chemicals known as endorphins. Phenylethylamine levels in the brain are elevated when people are “falling in love.” Seratonin is another chemical found in chocolate. This chemical is known for its happy and calming properties. Here’s the catch though: To get high enough concentrations of these chemicals to feel their effects, you must eat real, unprocessed chocolate – namely – cacao. Not cocoa. That’s processed. Make sure it’s CACAO. There is a big difference.

Real chocolate without the sugar offers some real health benefits too. Things like decreased blood pressure and blood clotting, increased blood vessel health and improved LDL levels to name a few. These benefits come from cacao’s high flavanol content. Real cacao is bitter to the taste though, so that is why chocolate manufacturers process the heck out of it and add all that sugar.

There are only 3 sources I have found that will give you all the mood and health benefits of real chocolate (cacao) while still tasting great. I’m listing them here in order of health and coincidentally, taste, from worst to best:

1.) Good – Cavalier brand no-sugar added dark chocolate bars. These are sweetened with Maltitiol, so if your body produces gas from this ingredient, beware. It might make you feel like you are in love initially, but farts following soon after can ruin the mood.

2.) Great – Mercola.com chocolate bars. All the benefits of cacao without the bitter taste, nothing artificial, no insulin spike, no fat storing phase, plus some protein to boot! They are super expensive though, but hey, it’s true – we really do get what we pay for.  http://www.mercolacatalog.com/whey-protein-2/whey-protein-now-in-a-chocolate-bar/

3.) Amazing – X Gym’s new chocolate pudding recipe! All the health and mood benefits of real chocolate with the amazing taste too. Best of all, you can make it at home! Check it out on www.hardbodcafe.com in the “Deserts” section.

Real cacao also has an ultra high fiber content and we all know how awesome that is. There are so many nutritional benefits to real cacao, it is actually classified as a superfood. In fact, cacao is arguably the most potent superfood on the planet. Many experts claim it’s anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are unsurpassed, even by other known superfood powerhouses such as turmeric, cinnamon, gogi berries and blueberries!

How do I know all this? Mainly from studying the research, but also from personal experience. You can study it for yourself by just Googling it. You will find that the darker the chocolate the better, so look for higher cacao content and lower sugar content. The higher the cacao and the lower the sugar however, the more bitter it becomes, unless you follow the suggestions above.

As for personal experience, my girlfriend is the best case study I have ever seen. Her mood is so drastically affected by cacao, it is truly remarkable. If she is bummed about something or feeling anything other than happy, shiny and elated, all I have to do is fill her mouth full of the pudding recipe mentioned above and within minutes she’s smothering me with hugs and is happy as a mouse in a cheese factory.

Be careful however, with this knowledge because the effects of cacao are so remarkable, it could be used for manipulation of other people’s moods. If you are feeding someone cacao for their health and brain benefits, then good for you. If you are using it to manipulate their mood for your own benefit however, then you’re just a jerk.