We reckon anyone who doesn’t reach for the cookie jar or a giant slab of chocolate when PMS symptoms kick in, must have the willpower of a saint. Let’s face it, it’s often the naughty nibbles, and not kale, that make us feel a whole lot better when we’ve got our period. Sorry, kale.
Pick the right kind of sweet treat though when succumbing to these cravings and you could be getting a whole load of body and wellbeing gains, too. Research has shown that unlike its milk chocolate counterpart, eating dark chocolate that’s turbocharged with a high percentage of raw cacao – like The Dark Side Conscious Chocolate bar found in May’s Pink Parcel – can actually be really, really good for you.
So what exactly is cacao? Well, for chocolate connoisseurs, it’s the most important ingredient in the dark stuff. Cacao powder comes from the cacao beans, which grow in pod-like fruits on Theobroma cacao trees. This is the origin of all chocolate products but the quality and taste of your chocolate depends entirely on how the beans are processed and what is, or isn’t, added later.
Conscious Chocolate use only raw cacao powder in its organic, handmade bars and that’s made by blowing the skins off ripe cacao beans to protect the natural flavours and genuine goodness. By producing chocolate this way instead of roasting and chemically processing the bean, there’s no bitterness and a bar requires much less sweetener – so is a purer, smoother choice for chocolate lovers.
But that’s not all. Raw cacao has gained its superfood status for delivering tons of health benefits beyond the taste. Here’s why this Amazonian wonder ingredient makes the grade in our favourite chocolate bars.
All the feels
Mainlining chocolate around the time of the month is certainly mood-lifting, but if it contains raw cacao, there’s science behind the satisfaction. Cacao can boost the production of endorphins because of its active compounds linked to mood-enhancing activity in the brain. It’s rich in tryptophan, the essential amino acid needed to produce serotonin as well as being an excellent source of phenylethylamine, the chemical associated with falling in love.
Who knew that chocolate could be a delicious vitamin-delivering vehicle and a source of essential amino-acids? Cacao is crammed with iron, which makes red blood cells and helps to carry oxygen around the body, and packed with potassium, zinc, selenium, manganese, B vitamins and vitamin C that helps to protect the skin and keep it healthy.
A natural high
If coffee and fizzy drinks are your go-to for powering on, you’ll be familiar with the hideous crash that can come swiftly after a dynamite high. Chocolate that’s packed with raw cacao serves up an energising lift without any of the lows of caffeine or refined sugars, thanks to the stimulant compound theobromine. Raw cacao is also very low in sugar; Conscious Chocolate’s The Dark Side is made with agave nectar derived from the blue agave plant, hitting the sweet spot in a much more natural way than conventional sugars. The natural agave nectar also contains inulin, a probiotic fibre which helps regulate the balance of sugar and glucose in the body.
Did you know that cacao powder contains a high concentration of magnesium – in fact, it’s one of the best food sources for the stuff? Magnesium has loads of health benefits from supporting a healthy heart and regulating blood pressure, to balancing the nervous system and maintaining energy levels. Many people are actually deficient in this mineral, too.
The free-from choice
If you’re struggling to find chocolate that has your free-from needs covered without compromising on taste, the Conscious Chocolate range is certified as organic, vegetarian and vegan and is free from gluten, dairy and soya – with a low gi and gl, meaning it’s suitable for diabetics.
Bursting with healthy antioxidants that block harmful free radicals in the body’s cells and tissue, cacao can help the body to defend against diseases such as cancer and Alzheimers, as well as protecting the skin and preventing premature ageing. It’s all about the natural chemicals called flavonoids and other clever compounds called epicatechins. Studies have revealed that when comparing cacao with black tea, green tea and red wine – also loaded with antioxidants – cacao has highest antioxidant activity, promoting the greatest health benefits. Suddenly, that second bar doesn’t seem so naughty, does it?