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Just about everyone loves chocolate, and some people really love chocolate. It's been known for a while now that chocolate is actually very healthy for you. Research has shown that chocolate can help stabilize blood sugar in diabetics, reduce the risk of miscarriage, reduce high blood pressure, help prevent blood clots, as well as reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer! Chocolates is so good for you, that it's said that it's more important than penicillin and even better for you than wine!

Chocolate Cravings

Often times, many of us get cravings for chocolate. It's a little known fact however that when we get a craving for something, it is generally a sign from our body that we need to fix an imbalance and that food will help the imbalance. With chocolate, this is no exception, of course. Chocolate (or really, cacao) is one of the highest sources of natural magnesium next to algaes (like wakame and kombun) and whole-wheat. My mentor Paul Pitchford writes in Healing With Whole Foods that this mineral is deficient in many modern people who eat refined foods. He continues by adding that approximately 70% of the United States population suffers magnesium deficiency, which is considered one of the most under-diagnosed deficiencies.

Magnesium has a whole slew of health benefits that it can provide to our health. From
Healing With Whole Foods:

The healing properties and uses of magnesium-rich foods include the following: They can calm nerve function; harmonize various mental and emotional imbalances, including irritability, depression, bipolar disorder, sleep disorders, and PMS (premenstrual syndrome); relax functioning of the muscles, including the heart muscle; soothe erratic changes such as migraine, sudden infant death syndrome, cramps, and spasms anywhere in the body (including eclampsia); create better flows in digestion to help relieve constipation; and overcome the fast-cycling blood sugar imbalances in alcoholism and diabetes.

Because our foods are so refined and there is such a lack of whole foods in the standard American diet (S.A.D.), most people miss out on the magnesium in normally magnesium rich foods (like chocolate!). It is important to note especially the valuable use of magnesium when one is stressed, has a migraine, or when a woman is experiencing PMS. These times when we crave chocolate the most are no coincidence; our body is trying to tell us that it needs this nutrient rich food to counteract the imbalance that is causing us problems. It is important to mention though that one can crave chocolate simply out of addiction to sugar and so it's very important to make sure you are not addicted to sugar and that your craving is for the chocolate itself and not the sugar within. This is why it's paramount to buy the highest quality organic chocolates when you get the craving or want to fix a magnesium deficiency.

What's healthy and unhealthy Chocolate?

Chocolate contains hefty amounts of flavonols, a powerful antioxidant that is also found in tea, citrus fruits, and wine. However, the flavanol content in chocolates varies depending on the quality of the chocolates that you buy. The average hershey bar you buy at the store isn't going to compare to the quality of organic chocolate or raw cacao. The more processing the cacao goes through to become chocolate, the more beneficial nutrients that are lost. Further, regular cacao plants that are treated with pesticides and are factory farmed will not contain nearly as many nutrients as it should because the quality of the soil isn't great and plants get their nutrients from the soil. If you're going to eat something, you should always get the best quality food you can – whole, natural foods.

Chocolate always (unless it's 100% cacao) gets processed with other ingredients to make the final product. It's important to note that the studies that have tested the healthful effects of chocolate have used raw cacao; not the chocolate you buy in the store. Now, that's not to say that you'll have to buy only 100% raw cacao to receive these healthful benefits, but it's important to understand that not all chocolates are the same. White Chocolate is the worst since it contains no cacao; it's just sugar, milk, and cacao butter. Milk chocolate – while it can contain around 35% cacao – is not much good either because acourding to Dr. Joseph Mercola (one of the leading health authorities in America), the milk cancels out the flavanols. Your best bet for the healthiest chocolate is dark chocolate which will contain high amounts of cacao (I know Lindt now sells 99% cacao chocolate bars). But again, you need to make sure you purchase high quality chocolate because of the processing methods that vary.

Chocolate.. Politics?

There are some moral and political issues associated with the purchase of chocolate because after all, this is the food industry we're talking about (the same industry that knowingly puts disease causing preservatives and additives into their foods) and chocolate is a big money maker. Cacao – much like coffee and other products grown in 3rd world countries – suffers from problems with “Fair Trade”. Fair Trade certified products ensure that the farmers who cultivate these crops for our consumption get paid a reasonable salary and are not swindled by unfair business practices. Despite growing chocolate sales worldwide, many cacao farmers are still heavily in debt because they are paid unfair wages for their work. To see if a product is Fair Trade certified, you can sometimes find a Fair Trade certified label on the product (right down in the corner where you see the organic certification). Likewise, there are other companies (like my favorite, Green & Black) who do their best to offer Fair Trade but may not hold the certification. The best way to tell is to look at the manufacturer's site or write to them and ask them to support Fair Trade practices. Like I keep saying though, I strongly recommend buying organic whenever possible.

There will always (unfortunately) be corporate lobbying so that they can save a buck at the expense of our health. Members of the Chocolate Manufacturers of America (like Hershey, Nestle, and others) have actually petitioned the FDA to – as they say – “modernize” food standards. What they really mean by this, is they want to use a mixture of milk, artificial sweeteners, and trans fats and label that as Chocolate. These manufacturers honestly feel that as long as they can make it taste like Chocolate, then it's ok to call it chocolate. This is another reason why it's important to buy certified organic products, but if you have to go with a non-organic product, I strongly recommend reading the ingredients in the chocolate you buy so that this deception can be avoided.

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