Yes, you read that subject line right. Chocolate is good for you! In fact, pure, raw cacao (pronounced cuh-COW; the proper name for pure chocolate) is the number one antioxidant food on the planet. Pound for pound, cacao is richer in antioxidants than blueberries, red wine, or black and green teas! And we all gotta admit; chocolate makes us feel good! That's because cacao acts to increase the levels of specific stress relieving neurotransmitters in our brain, such as serotonin, endorphins, phenylethylamine (PEAs), and anandamide.  Anandamide is known as the "bliss chemical" because it is released by the brain when we are feeling happy! And studies have shown quite consistently that dark chocolate particularly, with a cocoa content of at least 70%, reduces oxidative stress and improves vascular and platelet function. 

So yes, chocolate, in it's purest form,  is a health food. But as with anything, you can have too much of a good thing. The key is to eat minimally processed raw cacao in small amounts; just enough to receive the health-boosting qualities and leave you with that 'blissed-out' feeling.

All chocolate is initially made from cacao, which is the edible part of the cocoa bean after it has been harvested. The unfortunate part is that most commercial chocolate bars have 
low levels of cacao in comparison to the amount of  sugars, milk fat, and artificial flavorings they contain. What's wrong with adding a little of that stuff to the mix, you may ask? Well for starters, most of the health promoting properties are destroyed by cooking, processing, and refining. Additionally, dairy products actually block the absorption of antioxidants in chocolate. So now the question is... what do I need to look  for in health-promoting chocolate?

Keep in mind that 'chocolate' does not equal cacao bean, nor vice-versa. Look  for 100% organic cocoa powder or cacao nibs from a company that minimally processes the cocoa to ensure that the health properties are retained, or choose only high cacao percentage dark chocolate bars (typically at least 70% cacao content or higher), also from a high-quality provider. And don't forget to make sure it's fair trade certified too!