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Prevent Diabetes with Chocolate?!

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Chocolate is delicious, but not usually thought of as a health treatment. However, new evidence suggests that chocolate can prevent some symptoms of diabetes. Read more about this natural cure for diabetes below!

 Almost everyone enjoys a box of chocolates every now and then. Chocolate is one of the most popular desserts in the entire world. According to The History Channel, chocolate has been around as a tasty dessert for at least 4,000 years.

However, it was not until 1847 that a British chocolate company created the first chocolate bar. Previously, chocolate was enjoyed as hot chocolate or as a flavoring added to other foods. The invention of the chocolate press in 1828 ensured that chocolate would live in our hearts and stomachs forever.

When you normally think about chocolate, you probably think about the high sugar content, the fat, and the breakouts you might have after eating it. Hardly a health food, right? Recent research suggests that although the highly adulterated chocolate used to make candy is hardly a health food, chocolate itself has numerous health properties.

In fact, a study from 2008 published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that "the consumption of dark chocolate improves glucose metabolism and decreases blood pressure."

Both of these functions are highly important for preventing diabetes. Read more about this connection and the other health benefits of chocolate below:

What is So Healthy About Chocolate?

First off, it is the natural cacao that contains health benefits, not the sugar-filled dessert we usually call chocolate. It is similar to coffee. Black coffee has numerous health benefits, while sugary lattes have too many added ingredients to provide much health benefit.

However, dark chocolate and raw chocolate do have health benefits. Cacao contains compounds that, like most other plants, are beneficial for humans. The most beneficial compounds in cacao are a flavonoid known as epicatechin and resveratrol (also found in wine). Both of these compounds have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in the body.

Additionally, researchers believe that these compounds can also protect nerve cells from damage. Epidemiological studies suggest that tribes around the world who regularly consume cacao in its raw or near-raw form have lower disease rates for stroke, heart failure, diabetes, and cancer.

A 2009 study conducted on the Kuna people from Panama found that they have only a 10 percent risk of ever facing a stroke, having heart failure, getting cancer, or suffering diabetes. In short, they are some of the healthiest people on the planet. The study indicated that their good health is at least in part attributable to their high consumption of natural cacao.

The Kuna people consume about 40 cups of cocoa beverage (extracted the old-fashioned way with little sugar or processing) per week. While it is highly unlikely that we can consume that much chocolate (5-6 cups of cocoa drink per day would be quite expensive in the United States) other studies have found that smaller doses still have beneficial health properties on blood sugar, circulation, and general inflammation.

A 2011 study published in the British Medical Journal found that the more chocolate a person reported eating, the lower their risk was for certain diseases. In general, individuals who reported eating chocolate often had a 37 percent lower chance of developing heart disease and a 29 percent lower chance of developing a stroke.

Specifically for diabetes, a study from The Journal of Nutrition in 2008 found that when study participants at 100 grams of dark chocolate for 15 days, they had decreased insulin resistance.

Chocolate Reduces the risk of Common Diseases

A 2012 study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity found that chocolate is considered a complete food, because it not only contains beneficial nutrients but also contains healthy fats and antioxidants naturally. In its plant form, chocolate also contains protein, minerals, and valeric acid (which can have stress-relieving effects).

The study found that the regular consumption of natural chocolate can help the following health conditions:

Health Benefits of Chocolate
  • Fights inflammation
  • Reduces cancer risk
  • Fights Alzheimer's disease
  • Heals skin damage
  • Restores healthy gut bacteria
  • Reverses gum disease
  • Reduces stress
  • Improves eye health
  • Reduces stroke risk
  • Prevents diabetes
  • Improves liver function
  • Lowers blood sugar
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Lessens stroke risk

Identifying Healthy Chocolate

Although studies suggest that eating any kind of chocolate can have some health benefits, you will maximize the health benefits of chocolate if you eat healthy, unprocessed chocolate rather than the kind of chocolate that milk chocolate bars are made out of.

Luckily, the demand for high-quality, minimally-processed chocolate has led to it being stocked at most grocery stores and all health food stores. You just have to know what to look for. Chocolate in its natural state is not sweet at all.

It is closer to coffee than the dessert we usually think about. The bitter taste is also what makes chocolate healthy- the polyphenols (antioxidants) that boost health. Use this handy guide to determine which chocolate to pick up, and which to pass by.

Simple Guide to the Types of Chocolate

Chocolate: True chocolate is a candied form of cacao. It is usually made by roasting the seeds, adding milk fat and sweeteners, and cooking the mixture. Most chocolate is sold in bar form. You can still enjoy this kind of chocolate, just look for "raw" chocolate that has a high cocoa content and lower sugar content. It will taste bitter, but it will be a whole lot healthier.

White chocolate: White chocolate is not really chocolate at all. It is made from cocoa butter, milk solids, and sugar. You can eat it, but it won't do much for boosting your health.

Cocoa butter: Cocoa butter is an extraction of cocoa fat from the cocoa beans. The fat is fairly healthy, but it does not contain the antioxidants found in the beans.

Cocoa: Usually made from roasted cacao beans and ground into a powder. It can be sweetened or unsweetened. There is almost no fat in cocoa. Cacao: Cacao is the purest form of chocolate. It is usually sold ground into a powder of cacao seeds. In some cases, the beans may be roasted and others they may be raw. If you can find cacao nibs, that is the closest form to true cacao sold in the United States.

A Note on Processing

The more a food is processed, the more its health properties are diminished. The same is true of chocolate. That is why your candy bar is in no way a health food, while drinking a hot chocolate drink made from raw cacao powder can be. Some manufacturers remove the polyphenols from chocolate to make it less bitter, but obviously, this means reduced health benefits.

The easiest way to identify if chocolate has undergone processing is to look for chocolate products marketed as "raw." Some roasted beans may also have high nutrient levels, but it is harder to identify which chocolate has been altered the further processed the chocolate is.

As a general rule, any milk chocolate is not worth eating for the health benefits (but is still a tasty treat!).

How to Boost the Health Content of Chocolate

If you really want the biggest diabetes-fighting benefits of chocolate, the best way to get those benefits is by making your own chocolate. Start with raw cacao nibs. Eating one raw ounce of the nibs will give your body the boost it needs to fight diabetes and more.

Grind the nibs in a blender with 3 teaspoons of your favorite sweetener. This will create a sweetened cacao base that you can use to further transform into a chocolate bar or use as an additive for hot drinks or baked goods.

You can even experiment with adding milk solids and cocoa butter to your powder to create chocolate treats.

Chocolate is an Amazing Food

Chocolate is one of nature's surprising superfoods. The way we normally eat it is far, far from its original state, which makes it unhealthy, but at its core, chocolate is a powerful health food. If you are suffering from diabetes or other health conditions, just adding an ounce of raw cacao to your diet daily will provide significant benefit on your overall health. Combined with other supplements, a healthy diet, and exercise, chocolate may just become your new favorite superfood.

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