With the winter season fast approaching, it’s a good time to think about some of the best ways to combat colds and the flu. But with chocolate? Let’s be serious.
Yes, “healthy chocolate” can help you fight off this seasons’ colds and flu with it’s immunity boosting properties.
What is healthy chocolate? It is pure, unprocessed, dark chocolate that has not been alkalized and does not have added milk fats, oils, unhealthy sugars, or artificial ingredients. Sorry milk chocolate lovers – experts recommend at least 70% cocoa content.
Chocolate comes from the cocoa bean, a plant that is a nutrient powerhouse and super high in antioxidants.
As a matter of fact, chocolate has more antioxidants than blueberries, cranberries, and red wine:
- Dark chocolate: 20823
- Blueberries: 5347
- Cranberries: 9584
- Red wine: 5034
(Source: the USDA Nutrient Data Base using the ORAC score per 100 grams).
Cocoa also has more fiber than broccoli and beans, more protein than walnuts, and it is low in sugar and calories. One tablespoon of cocoa powder has only 12 calories and less than 0.1 grams of sugar.
Am I busting some myths about chocolate here? Remember, we are talking about unprocessed cocoa, not Snickers or M&M’s.
How does chocolate boost your immune system?
Antioxidants: The high antioxidants called flavanols in cocoa fight off free radicals that damage healthy cells and that make your body weak and susceptible to infections.
Anti-infection activity: There are many reports of cocoa flavonoids stopping infections. Many studies have shown that catechins (a type of flavonoid in green tea and cocoa) exert antimicrobial activity and inhibit multiple virus’. Virus’ can’t replicate on their own. When virus’ enter your body, they inject their own genetic material into your cells and take over the cells’ inner workings. Antioxidants help prevent this from happening.
Anti-inflammatory activity: The flavonoids in cocoa also help prevent inflammation. Inflammation irritates your tissues and cells and weakens your immune system. A study conducted by researchers at various institutions found that cocoa as a potential immune controller may have therapeutic advantages in human diseases that involve activation of the immune system.
Powerhouse of phytonutrition: Chocolate is rich in a variety of nutrients, even rivaling more commonplace fruits and vegetables. It contains Thiamin (Vit B1); Riboflavin (Vit B2); Niacin (Vit B3); Pantothenic acid (vit B5); Pyridoxine (vit B6); Vitamin C; Copper, Calcium; Phosperous; Iron; Magnesium; Zinc; Manganese; and Vitamin E. All of these are critical nutrients to healthy cell functioning and a strong immune system.
Anti-depressant: If you’re a chocolate lover, you already know that chocolate elevates your mood and makes you feel better. Now science has shown that the chemicals in cocoa like theobromine, tyramine, tryptophan-serotonin, endorphins, and anandamide are mood elevating and help prevent depression. Depression reduces your immune response, mainly by inhibiting the activity of “attack” immune cells called T cells and B cells.
Plus chocolate is just so rich, decadent, and delicious that you automatically think “life is good” when you indulge in chocolate.
A great way to enjoy chocolate during the winter is to make yourself a cup of “healthy” hot cocoa. Here’s a “healthy” hot cocoa recipe especially made to help combat colds and flu:
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 Tbsp raw cocoa powder
- 1 Tbsp blue agave nectar (low glycemic sugar)
- 1/2 tsp camu-camu powder (super high in Vitamin C)
Heat the almond milk first and then add the other ingredients and stir vigorously. (Best to whirl it with an egg beater and get it nice and frothy). By heating the milk first, you help preserve the nutrients and enzymes in the cocoa and camu-camu. You can find these ingredients in your local health food store.
So, go ahead, indulge. But make sure it’s “healthy” chocolate.