Dark Chocolate, Cheat Meals, and Cocoa To The Rescue
Dark Chocolate, Cheat Meals, and Cocoa To The Rescue

Hey mate

 

I hope this finds you better than ever and absolutely rocking in your own focus on happiness.

 

The weekend is upon us, people are running off for cheat meals left right and center, and I wanted to give you my take on my favorite low guilt, high benefit CHEAT MEAL FOOD.

 

Surprisingly Good Companions

A double espresso over ice, and my current favorite chocolate bar, the Endangered Species 88%. This is the one to beat in my opinion, but I want yours below.

 

This particular food is so good that women’s magazines and ex-girlfriends have been caught reporting that chocolate can be better than sex.

 

Regardless of your thoughts on that comment – chocolate is YUMMY, and for reasons some of us can’t explain, eating it makes you FEEL good.

 

Perhaps you did not know is that done right, it is also extremely good for you.

 

So good that we have a super high spec cocoa extract in Athletic Greens. It is one of my favorite ingredients (and one of the most potent) in Athletic Greens.

 

So let’s start with the active ingredient in my favorite cheat meal food, DARK CHOCOLATE, and then we will cover how to EAT it.

 

Dark Chocolate, and Cocoa

 

Theobroma Cacao, (theobroma is a Greek derived word which translates to “Food of the Gods”) or cocoa as we commonly call it, has been around for a while, originating in the tropical parts of Central and south America.

 

Originally used by Mesoamerican peoples (the original cultivators thought to be the Aztecs, though I think many would have used cocoa) for both its taste enhancing benefits and for its stimulating properties (theobromine is in the methylxanthines family, which includes a more famous cousin, caffeine), they also apparently liked it for its mood enhancing effects.

 

Wooohoooo!

 

Fast forward a year or five hundred since the Europeans first tasted this puppy and “chocolate” is a major industry all of its own.

 

When we are referring to cocoa, we are referring to what comes out of the cocoa beans.

 

Despite what Nestle’s marketing department probably hopes you would think, the terms “chocolate” and “cocoa” are not in fact interchangeable, and is an important point to remember when thinking health benefits.

 

– Cocoa is fermented and finely ground up cocoa beans, subsequently used in the production of the likes of chocolate via chocolate liquor or cocoa butter. (Cocoa is considered the non-fat part of cocoa liquor).

 

– Chocolate refers to the finished, generally solid food product made up of cooca, cocoa butter, sugar, milk, emulsifiers etc

 

– The processing of cocoa can remove a large amount of the polyphenol (anti-oxidant) content, and render a lot of the health benefits null and void.

 

– Milk chocolate has a very low ratio of cocoa solids (the good stuff) and generally is more heavily processed.

 

Further milk chocolate is, quite simply, bad for you, and fattening; it is full of sugar, loaded with dairy, generally comes with some nasty emulsifeirs and additives, and has nearly none of the good stuff (cocoa) and a lot of things that are bad for you.

 

If you want even the remotest of health benefits, milk and white chocolates are out. Sorry.

 

Dark Chocolate, specifically high cocoa content dark chocolates of 85% cocoa or more, with their higher ratios of cocoa and lower ratios of sugar (and no dairy!) are IN.

 

Here is why we love cocoa!

 

NOTE: a bit of science below, hopefully it is not tough reading. If you want to skip to the good stuff, the “how to eat chocolate” part, feel free to skip down a little. I marked the page like this.

 

******

 

Here we go:

 

Active Ingredients

 

The active ingredients in cocoa include methylxanthines – caffeine, theophylline and theobromine (with theobromine being by far the dominant stimulant in cocoa), dopamine, serotonin (as well as tryptophan), anandamide and phenethylamine.

 

That is all before we even discuss the amazing antioxidant content, dominated by flavonoids and the flavanols epicatechin and catechin (like those in green tea) and oligomeric pro-anthocyanidins (OPC’s, stronger in cocoa than in grape-seed extract) in particular.

 

Known Benefits of Cocoa (when I say known it means the literature backs this up)

 

Of the many health benefits reported in the scientific literature, the most commonly mentioned are anti-hypertensive and anti-thrombotic effects and overall cardio vascular benefits, thought to be attributed to the anti-oxidant effects of the flavanols and procyanidin content. These include directly lowering of blood pressure, reduction in hypertension, increase in HDL (good cholesterol), decrease in LDL, and improved endothelial function (the functioning of the lining of blood vessels).

 

All good stuff. There is more….

 

Diabetes: Proanthocyanidins in cocoa appear to combat the effects of diabetes mellitus, including the reducing the progress of diabetes induced cataracts, and in one study even showed a dose dependent effect on the prevention of hyperglycemia in obese mice.

 

Mice are mice, people are people, and we all know that we can avoid type two diabetes by smart eating choices but still, all good stuff. And yes, there is more….

 

Perhaps most exciting to me, being in the “I hate chronic inflammation” camp, are some recent studies suggesting potent anti-inflammatory effects of cocoa, again thought to be by the sexy procyanidins content, which have also been shown to modulate immune response.

 

Cocoa extracts have further been shown to repress inflammatory responses in the brain while improving blood oxygenation to the brain – which shows interesting potential for cocoa flavanols to be used for neuro protective benefits with maladies such as dementia and strokes. Yes, still more…..

 

Sooo….between heart health benefits, immune benefits, and anti-inflammation benefits, it should be obvious that the anti-oxidants pack a pretty serious punch in cocoa extract, above and beyond fighting free radicals. The anti-oxidant content of cocoa is awesome, and the cocoa extract used in Athletic Greens provides a nice chunk of the anti-oxidant punch in that product. (It also adds to the taste)

 

Yay for cocoa! It should be noted that studies have shown that the processing of cocoa can trash the anti-oxidant content so pick your source wisely.

 

There also seems to be good early indication that the antioxidant effects of the polyphenols might be directly linked to cancer prevention, as they seem to selectively inhibit growth of cancer cells in in vitro studies?.

 

For the antidepressant effect, similarly, there is indication polyphenols are responsible for the effects, but it is not yet clear how.

 

I have my thoughts.

 

Stimulation, Mood, and “I Feel Happy When I Eat Chocolate”

 

As mentioned above, cocoa has a mild stimulatory effect. While cocoa does have caffeine in it, it is there in tiny tiny amounts compared to theobromine (it is nearly 8 to 1 theobromine to caffeine).

 

So it is the theobromine that is giving the stimulant boosting effect found with cocoa, or specifically, cocoa heavy dark chocolate. Yes, dark chocolate can wake you up, if taken in sufficient amounts.

 

When it comes to the mood enhancing benefits, it is where the research is a bit of a mine field.

 

While some of the polyphenols now seem likely, many of the mood-enhancing benefits were originally thought to be attributable to the phenethylamine content.

 

I used to think so too, especially since I can’t even pronounce phenethylamine, so it seemed the obvious intelligent answer.

 

However, it has now been shown that orally ingested phenethylamine barely makes it past the gut, and results only in tiny increases in brain levels of this mood enhancer (which we can make ourselves too, by the way). So while this surely plays a part, there must be something else to it.

 

My thought is pretty simple. It does make people feel better. So whether the mechanism is the mild stimulant effect, some chemical effect that has yet to be conclusively proven, or the endorphins released when you eat chocolate from the taste and the pleasure, of well, eating chocolate are what cause people to feel happy when eating chocolate……. the cause is a moot point.

 

If you feel happier when eating chocolate, and you can do so on occasion without crapping on your health, then eat it.

 

*********

 

There are enough positives shown from the cocoa content to more than justify the inclusion of this food in your diet in the form of dark chocolate.

 

Dark, Cocoa Laden Chocolate, which had no anti-nutrients or auto-immune problem causing ingredients like dairy, and other than the small amounts of sugar is generally not nearly as bad for you as it tastes, being so wonderfully delicious to eat.

 

Which brings us to the fun part….. Eating it.

 

The HOW To Eat Chocolate

 

If you have skipped down to here, welcome back!

 

Number 1: always always always make it dark chocolate

 

Number 2: darker is better. The higher the cocoa content, not only is there less room for crap (generally sugar if avoiding milk chocolate, which we are doing) there is more goodness from the higher cocoa content. Start at 70% if you have to, but aim to get over 85% as soon as you can

 

Number 3: organic is better, cleaner, less likely to be contaminated. If you can get it, go for fair trade too

 

Number 4: since poor processing of the cocoa can destroy the majority of the anti-oxidants, be careful in who you select for your dark chocolate fix. We were super careful with our cocoa extract in Athletic Greens for exactly this reason

 

I give my current favorite chocolate bar a bit further below (see pic).

 

Though you may think that you will find it bitter, and it is bitter compared to the sugar laden milk chocolate varieties, you will be surprised how much your taste buds move or have already moved after a period of clean eating such as following my Food for Fat Loss guidelines.

 

If, however, you still think you will find it too bitter, and don’t want to eat dark chocolate by itself, try playing with it as follows (fun for taste too, even if you are already a dark chocolate fan).

 

As a contrast to bitterness or big flavors:

 

– With a double espresso – the movement from the extra bitter espresso to the considerably less bitter dark chocolate will make you smile. You also get a double stimulant hit from the caffeine in the coffee and the theobromine in the cocoa and if you keep the number of pieces to one or two, all for about 4 grams of sugar…. Where do I sign?

 

– With a glass of red wine – I find the big bold reds the best wine companions, (such as shiraz or cabernet sav). I have no idea why these taste so good together but they do

 

– With some super strong green or black tea – similar to the espresso, this contrast is excellent, you are also going to be in anti-oxidant heaven.

 

Hand Made Artesian Dark Chocolates from Me Late Chocolate (“I Love Chocolate”) and Mikaela Double Espresso

 

 

As a contrast to sweetness:

 

– Eat it with a bowl of berries

 

– Eat it with some ice-cream (on your cheat day only, and only if ok with dairy). I know this Kiwi guy who has been known to use dark chocolate pieces as a scoop with his full fat ice cream, on occasion.

 

– Melt it down on low heat and pour it over some strawberries, then put the lot in the fridge for a few hours. Bring these out at a party and I guarantee you extreme social points. These are also a great way to slowly bring the family over to dark chocolate-ness

 

 

Dark Chocolate Strawberries – Not a dark chocolate hard sell  (photo credit: tomkellyphoto)

 

 

The WHEN:

 

Post workout is an ideal time for eating your dark chocolate, with the improved nutrient partitioning effects post exercise helping minimize the impact of the sugar.

 

People who are already lean, if you have a piece or two a few times a week, it doesn’t concern me in the least, especially so if you do it post workout.

 

Cheat meals – Sorry, the sugar content is still there, so if chasing fat loss, I recommend cheat days only. Bear in mind that the calorie content of dark chocolate is high, and concentrated. I am more worried about the sugar than the calories, unless you are doing it often.

 

This however, makes it awesome for an overfeeding event, or for going large on a cheat day, where you will feel satisfied, probably quite happily sick if you really get stuck in, and not do too much damage to yourself.

 

NOTE: if you wake up feeling a bit down and depressed, I have found a wake up stack of acetyl-l-carnitine, a double espresso, two pieces of dark chocolate, and the all important walk outdoors in the sun can do wonders. Not suggesting you swap in a regimen of stimulants and chocolate, nor am I recommending a replacement for aggressively going after happiness in all elements of your life, but your neurotransmitters and endorphin levels will thank you.

 

For its inherent goodness via the cocoa content and the limit with high cocoa content chocolate on things that are bad for you, dark chocolate gets two Kiwi thumbs up.

 

A comment on life and eating cleanly:

 

Feel like you are absolutely going to go off the rails with your eating? Whether you are lean or not I would MUCH rather you went off the rails intelligently and had some Dark Chocolate, than went wild with something that was going to tear your gut into pieces, or cause your insulin levels to go beserk. (Just remember to get back on the clean eating bike afterwards).

 

In fact, I encourage you to do so. Dark chocolate is yummy, and if the cocoa content is high enough, it is surprisingly good for you.

 

So get out there, and enjoy.

 

For my dark chocolate lovers, two questions for you, my current favorite dark chocolate is the Endangered Species 88%, though I also really love some of the Theo chocolates (I also love their mission and approach, if you are in Seattle, well worth a factory tour visit).

 

If you are starting someone else off with a push towards dark chocolate, then I recommend you make it 70% for the newbies, and build up towards 85% plus from there.

 

So…… What is your favorite dark chocolate bar at the moment? And what is your favorite way to eat it?

 

Do tell in the comments below. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

 

“100% Focus on Happiness”

 

That is my mantra, and it starts with phenomenal health.

 

Best,

 

Chris “the Kiwi”

 

ps. The high polyphenol cocoa extract used in Athletic Greens is just one of over 70 ingredients in Athletic Greens that have been handpicked to improve your health in just 27 seconds a day. You can find out more by clicking on this link here.

 

pps. This post was my first crack at throwing something up by myself before the fully designed version of the blog came into play, it was only sent to a few people, and with this new, updated posting is the first time out the gate for everyone, and I would love to hear from you!!

 

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About the author
Chris 'The Kiwi'
So named because he comes from a little country in the Pacific called New Zealand where a small, fat, quasi-blind, and largely defenseless bird by the name of “Kiwi” is the national animal, and what we are called when we land in other countries. He is focused on using what he can remember from his studies for a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science and his cumulative years as a nutritionist and strength coach to help other people enjoy amazing levels of health and energy. He enjoys ticking through his list of life goals and meeting new people.
  • Anonymous

    KZS5 Recently i would be so very down on cash and debts were eating me from everywhere!! That was UNTIL i found out how to earn money on the internet! I went to surveymoneymaker d.o.t net, and started doing surveys for cash, and surely i’ve been far more able to do my things!! i am so glad, that I did this! – 3Wmh

  • Anonymous

    I hate to say it. But I just tried my Endangered Species 88% again. New packaging/wrapper, and a very different looking bar…. and it did not taste the same at all, or even have the same colour and texture. So it is no longer my favourite bar (I have no idea what happened). The hunt continues…. :)

  • Tydoron

    This is the best company out there, but not very well known. http://www.tazachocolate.com/
    They have a variety of strengths and flavors, from 60-87%, all organic, fair trade, and dairy-free. Super delicious.

  • Ccarr1996

    The theo bars are the best gott love the 70% orange flavor and the 85% dark! Doing thee food for fat loss and its working great now that ive gotten all of my mental blocks gone. Im recommitting to it again right now as a post to the masses! I am/promise to follow it as written and I am lean! Thanks kiwi for the new lifestyle choice and the fact tht weight doesnt matter its body fat percentage that matters!

    • Anonymous

      Way to go mate!! That is EXACTLY the type of commitment and responsibility that will get you there. Awesome! Let me know how I can help. C

  • Tkeyserpetty

    Theo roasted Coco-nibs….nomnomnom…on a salad, mix with raw coconut to make crust for salmon (heavenly..try it–can fry in coconut oil or bake), or just toss back a handfull–crunchy goodness! Sprinkle on spoonful of almond butter…endless uses (although not chocolate, same benefits) Doesn’t have to be Theo brand, I just happen to have those at present…any nibs with do!

  • Chelsea

    Green and Black is my current fav, I use it whenever I cook with chocolate and the high quality really makes a difference. I started using AG after I finished school and was really feeling unhealthy. Of course, exercise, sunshine, and lack of stress propably helped too but I have to say all my yucky symptoms ( headaches, frequent colds, and itchy skin) have completely gone. I’ve also lost 4 lbs so far, and have 5 more to go to get back to my pre-grad school weight of 131. I don’t have the discipline to go full paleo, but right now I’m at about 80% healthy eating. I like your enthusiasm in the blog posts, it’s very inspiring! The only thing I would suggest is to have more pics of fit people for even more motivation.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Chelsea! And thank you for the feedback. More fit pics it is.

  • Cmplatt92

    Great Post

    What’s your favorite brand of teas?

    Thanks

    • Anonymous

      Thanks mate!

      I tend to look for loose leaf tea for oolong and green tea, in which case I go by scent. I have tried the green tea bags by Stash tea, which was ok. If out at a chinese restaurant I ask for Ti Kuan Yin, a type of oolong tea. (Always gets a few eyebrows, but is the extent of my chinese vocabulary)

      Though canned, I am quite a fan of the Ito En Sencha Shots and Oolong Shots. Annoyingly addictive.

      For English Breakfast (my preferred black tea), I like Twinings (the red packets), reminds me of sitting in the kitchen drink tea with my Mumma growing up.

      What are your favorites?

      C

      • http://www.facebook.com/tuckerbutter Kirsten Tucker

        For loose teas I am definitely enjoying Teavana teas. For bag teas I go with either Revolution of Stash. I drink almost exclusively earl grey and green tea.

  • Hakoke

    Can’t get the ES chocolate here either..will look for an alternative..Whitackers do a nice dark chocolate but not sure about the other ingredients in it

  • Hakoke

    Great post Kiwi! I really enjoy reading your stuff..but…you knew that was coming didn’t you ? lol I have a problem..I am in New Zealand so where do I buy Athletic Greens? The link you post only gives 2 options..USA and Canada. I don’t live there!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks mate! For the Athletic Greens, we elected to FOCUS on one market, a process that is paying dividends for us (we keep running out of product), so just USA and Canada at this stage, then Europe next. Annoys all the Kiwi mates, but such is life, ours is a very capital intensive product, with low margins and long lead times, so it was focus or die. Sorry for the inconvenience, we will get down there eventually!

  • Marshobu

    My hands down favorite chocolate bar is the Green & Black’s organic 85% Dark Chocolate. Winner of several of my personal taste tests! A little goes a long long way.

    • Anonymous

      Nice! On votes on this blog G and B organic dark is winning! :)

  • Suzann

    I just checked my dark chocolate bar I have in the house & it’s only 64% . Dang it! It’s chipolte flavor and really good. I’ll do better next time.

    • Anonymous

      Hey Suzann, a good attitude :). Let me know what you pick and how you find it

  • Rob Lear

    Hey Kiwi,

    Great post as always! I have some chocolate that will give your choice a run for the money. Dagoba Chocolate: http://www.dagobachocolate.com/index.asp
    Super delicious…

    • Anonymous

      Cheers Rob!

    • liz

      I also love dagoba!! It is organic and delish:)

  • DOUG POLSKY

    I ENJOYED YOUR ARTICLE ON COCOA MY WIFE AND I HAVE TWO SMALL BARS OF DARK CHOCLATE EVERY DAY ……..DOUG

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Doug!!

  • Jp

    I have been using Athletic Greens for a couple of months now and cannot rave any further to my friends and family…
    I recently started taking 2 servings of Navitas Cacoa Power a day. I know it has dropped my blood pressure, helped with inflammation and even improved the conditions of my sexual functions. It has plenty of natural fiber and no sugar to speak of. I usually add an ice cube and a shot of pure pomegranate juice to offset its bitter taste. Wonderful.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Jp!

  • Haggs

    I like Bakers bittersweet chocolate. It kinda has a coffee flavor to it. I either eat it plain or melt it and mix it with unsweetened coconut and homemade pecan butter.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Haggs! I will check it out

  • Asheedy

    great

    • Anonymous

      Thanks mate!

  • Linda Jay

    Chris, Thanks for all the info you put out there for us. If you would, please check out http://www.mxicorp.com, the makers of XOCAI healthy chocolate. I would really appreciate hearing your views on their chocolate.

    • Anonymous

      Hey Linda. I haven’t tried it, but from what I can see it is MLM for chocolate, trying to do to chocolate what happened to the acai, ie, make people think it is a miracle cure. That is on the marketing side. Re the chocolate, haven’t tried it, but judging by a two second look at their specs it is not a high cocoa percentage at all, as it is way way too high in sugar).

  • Janitorjohnson

    Question. This Endangered Species brand contains soy lecithin. Beyond Diet says to avoid all soy products at all cost. Is there any Dark Chocolate that does not contain Soy lecithin?

    • Anonymous

      Hey mate, a good question.

      I think there is a huge amount of misunderstanding about lecithin (there is a MASSIVE range in lecithin specifications). I am anti SOY, just like Beyond Diet or anyone else with sense), but i like the extremely high spec lecithin (you don’t see it very often), don’t like the low spec much, but really don’t think your body is going to blink at what amounts to mg amounts in a piece of chocolate.
      See my response to an earlier comment like this below.

      C

    • liz

      the dagoba I get is organic, and only contains cocoa, cocoa butter and sugar. It’s great:)

  • Anonymous

    Great article Chris! I am currently into those little THEO Roasted Cacao Nibs 100% cocao…I snack on those every now and then. While most don’t like the taste (and it does take some getting used to) of 100% cacao, I like it…. This addition to my diet has been a great help..because I enjoy cacao so much!

    • Anonymous

      Love it! Thanks mate. I did the Theo tour while on a trip to Seattle last year, highly recommended. I will try the nibs! Appreciate it. C

  • Anonymous

    come on, someone has to have a comment :)

    • Diannabowes

      Xocai healthy chocolate is delicious, with no added sugar, fats or waxes. Itnis cold pressed and they come individually wrapped.

      • Anonymous

        Nice. Though they DO add sugar (they all do, unless it is straight cocoa or they put in some rubbish artificial sweetener)

  • Vadim

    Good read and the science behind it. Thanks Kiwi :)

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Vadim!

  • Goldie

    DAGOBA!!!

    • Anonymous

      OK! :) Cheers

  • http://www.facebook.com/leilani238 Amy Platt

    Excellent article on the whole, but one thing – be *very* careful recommending addictive substances like theobromine and caffeine to people with depression – they can make the depression worse when the high wears off. If you haven’t read “Potatoes Not Prozac” (maybe you have; I haven’t gone through your materials extensively), I imagine you’d enjoy adding this to your knowledge base for health and happiness even if it doesn’t apply to you.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Amy! This got buried. Understood.

  • Tloveland

    Your articles are always so helpful. Thanks for the facts and ideas.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you mate.

  • Ben

    My favourite is Loving Earth raw dark chocolate, it’s 73% cocoa but is sweetened with organic evaporated coconut nectar instead of sugar.
    http://www.raw-chocolate.net/product-groups/10/raw-chocolate-bars-coconut-sugar
    My favourite flavour is orange & gubinge.

    • Anonymous

      Hey Ben,

      Thanks mate, appreciate it. I will happily try every recommendation here, including this Loving Earth one, in the name of research, of course. :)

  • WL Carr

    Check out the handcrafted chocolate bars from Escazu Artisan Chocolates http://www.escazuchocolates.com/
    My favorite, when I can find it, is the 74% Dark Chocolate bar with Chipotle Chili … Not the 88% Chris recommends, but the chili is a nice extra “kick”.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks WL. I have never tried it with chipotle, so happy to give it a nudge.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rjmgroup Bob Mulholland

    Chris, I’d pass on the Endangered Species 88% because of the emulsifier, soy lecithin. Equal Exchange Organic Fair Trade Dark Chocolate (Panama) is organic, fair trade, minimum 80%, and no soy.

    http://www.tropicaltraditions.com/organic_dark_chocolate.htm

    • Anonymous

      Cheers Bob. I am going to try the tropical traditions. I understand the stance on the soy lecithin when used as an emulsifier. I also know that there is a MASSIVE range in lecithin qualities, from the cheapest type generally used as food emulsifiers to the highest spec, which are used in clinical trials for their phosphatidyl serine and choline content. In this case, I am not too worried about people ingesting the emulsifier level of lecithin in small doses with a bit of dark chocolate on occasion, though I do know that there are plenty of purists who disagree with me. Thank you for the comment mate!

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.taumoepeau John Taumoepeau

    First crack looks good! Good luck! I know we didn’t chat much, but nice meeting you in Napa.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks John. Was good meeting you too mate

      • Msfitns72

        Green and Black’s is TOPS in the creaminess department!! The 85% is to die for! My FAV

        • Anonymous

          Nice!!

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