Do your memories of camping involve squares of chocolate melted onto Graham crackers, clinging to marshmallows, and licked from fingers? Does your winter routine involve mugs of hot cocoa after a day of playing in (or shoveling) the snow?
Good news: in the right form, this decadent delight is exceedingly good for your heart, your skin, your performance and your mood. (Okay, that last one you knew already.) Raw cacao nibs, beans and powder may require you to branch off the beaten path, but your brain and body will thank you.
Raw chocolate is actually cacao, the seed of the fruit growing on the cacao tree. And cacao is a certified superfood—one of those foods that boost immunity, pack nutrients and protein, and deliver major levels of antioxidants. In fact, experts say the raw cacao bean trumps the blueberry in terms of antioxidant levels. Here’s why that’s amazing news for chocolate lovers hoping to stay in shape for this summer’s adventures:
Gorgeous glow. Antioxidants can protect skin from sun damage, improve circulation to the skin, promote hydration, smooth imperfections, and imbue skin with that special glow. The higher the percentage of cacao in chocolate, the more antioxidants it packs. Opt for chocolate bars that are 70% or higher in cacao—especially raw cacao made with organic ingredients.
Better mood. Chocolate’s high levels of tryptophan enable the body to release the hormone responsible for making you happy. That’s why chocolate is a natural mood enhancer.
Healthy heart. One square of dark chocolate (70 percent cacao or higher) contains more phenols than a glass of red wine. Phenols help sweep arteries clean from the bad fats that tend to cling there. Chocolate also helps dilate the cardiovascular system, allowing the heart to function at top form.
More endurance. Energy and stamina are always advantages, whether you’re foraging or fishing in the great outdoors or simply fixing a home repair. Recent studies have found that dark chocolate can boost athletic performance. In particular, cyclists who ate dark chocolate prior to hopping on their wheels were more efficient in their oxygen use and were able to bike a longer distance in a timed trial.
Want to maximize the benefits of chocolate on your next camping trip? Make your own heart-healthy, mood-boosting, stamina-stoking trail mix with raw cacao nibs or beans, gogi berries, mulberries, raw nuts and seeds. Let us know how it turns out!