Here’s how you can use it to boost your health.
It had been a rough day. I had gotten about 4 hours of sleep after staying up most of the night putting the final touches on my senior design project. I followed that up with a 7 mile run at track practice and a final exam in my computer architecture class.
Needless to say, when I finally made it home to my little studio apartment at the end of the night, I was exhausted, cranky, and hungry.
I didn’t have the energy to cook a fancy dinner, so I settled for pasta and veggies — a simple, healthy meal that I could cook up in minutes. But, that was definitely not enough to satisfy me after a long day.
As I often did after long, stressful days in college, I turned to my favorite dessert to finish my night off on a sweet note. I opened my top cabinet, reached into the back corner, and found my hidden delight — my stash of sweet and decadent dark chocolate bars.
But, I am certainly not alone in this act. In fact, 97% of Americans eat candy every year. Whether it be a chocolate bar, sour candy, gummy candy, or some other special treat, most people have a favorite candy that they eat somewhat frequently. And while a lot of it is highly processed and loaded with sugar, there are some ways to eat candy and actually improve your health. Here’s how.
Choose the right one.
Certain candies are superior to others in terms of health benefits. The right candy will provide you with some kind of boost. The others are just processed sugar. So, which candy is the best to eat for optimal health benefits?
Well, dark chocolate is at the top of the list. It has the potential to do a number of things for your body. First, cocoa has plant chemicals called flavanols that may work to protect the heart. Dark chocolate typically contains about 2–3 times more than its milk chocolate counterpart.
Flavanols have also been shown to help relax the blood vessels, and therefore, lower blood pressure. Therefore, dark chocolate can supply some health benefits that many other candies will not. While most people would not consider dark chocolate a "healthy" food, it is definitely healthier than other options which are much higher and sugar and don't have the same plant chemicals.
For example, a can of soda is essentially carbonation and liquid sugar. It has about 39 grams per can, and is generally considered unhealthy, and even dangerous due to the addictive nature of sugar and the highly excessive amount it contains.
On the flip side, dark chocolate bars can have as little as 1 or 2 grams of added sugar per serving. A few on the market are even 100% dark chocolate, and contain no added sugar per serving. Of course, these bars are incredibly bitter and contain no sweetness. So, if you can't handle the bitterness (I struggle to), then a dark chocolate bar with minimal sugar might be a better option.
Look beyond the surface.
In order to figure out which sweet treats are healthiest, you have to look beyond the shiny exterior packaging.
This is because many desserts can be advertised as healthy, when in reality, that is far from the case. So, make the extra effort to check the ingredients label. If the list is short and the ingredients are recognizable, it is probably a good choice.
Then, check the nutrition facts, specifically the added sugar. If the chocolate bar you are considering buying has 30g of added sugar, then it is not the best one in terms of added sugar content.
This is a very important step, because even I have been fooled by seemingly healthy packaging in the past that just doesn't live up to its claims.
There are plenty of dark chocolate bars out there with low added sugar that taste delicious. If you look for one with a higher percentage of cocoa, it will be less likely to have a bunch of added sugar. My personal favorite is 90 - 95%, because the dark chocolate still has the slightest bit of sweetness to it.
Think about other implications.
If you are allergic to dairy or nuts, make sure that the candy you are choosing is free of those. Many dark chocolate bars do not contain dairy, whereas milk chocolate does.
So, by choosing dark chocolate, you will not only be giving your health a boost, but also avoiding potential side effects from consuming dairy, as well as helping the environment.
For instance, once I stopped consuming milk chocolate (and all other dairy), my skin cleared up immensely and I had more energy each day. Now, this could have been a result of a number of different lifestyle factors. However, I personally think that getting rid of the dairy in my diet did play a role.
While everyone’s body is unique, there is no denying that switching to dark chocolate has the potential to boost your health and decrease your added sugar intake.
You don’t need to cut foods you enjoy out of your life to live in a healthy and sustainable way. But, if you are trying to clean up your diet in small but meaningful ways, you can easily do so by making simple swaps like eating dark chocolate in place of milk chocolate.
Once I replaced the dairy in my diet with vegan alternatives like dark chocolate and almond milk, I felt much better on a day to day basis, both energy wise and ethically. I knew I was making a positive impact on the environment and supporting animal ethics, which are just added bonuses to the fact that these kind of simple swaps also can help you decrease excess sugar consumption.
This includes using dark chocolate chips in your healthy recipes, such as fudgy chocolate brownies or even a microwave chocolate mug cake. It may not seem like much, but over time, these little changes will add up to big results.