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Chocolate and Paprika? The Health Benefits of “Functional Chocolate”

February 17, 2012

Chocoholics rejoice! We’ve talked about the feel-good benefits of chocolate before, but did you know that certain cacao confections could also help you focus on your work, fight off the flu, or even spice up your love life?

A growing industry of “functional chocolates” is adding health-promoting supplements, spices, and herbs to its confections. These treats may be able to help you improve your health while indulging your sweet tooth.

Chocolate is already known to offer a myriad of health benefits—the heart-healthy flavonoids found in cocoa lower blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol. Now, companies like Gnosis Chocolate, founded by 2007 Integrative Nutrition graduate Vanessa Barg, are leveraging the natural benefits of raw, organic chocolate by addingGnosis Chocolate “extracts of other health-promoting foods such as goji berries (also high in antioxidants), ginseng (which can help control blood sugar and increase energy) and ginkgo biloba (which is often touted as a memory aid).”

Gnosis is just one of a growing group of chocolatiers using natural fruits, roots, spices, and other aromatics to address health issues including high blood pressure, bloating, inflammation, digestion problems, and immune system deficiencies. Companies like Poco Dolce, Antidote, Cocanu, and Kallari are all redefining the candy we know and love by infusing chocolate with the likes of fennel, juniper berries, star anise, and ginger.

It’s great to know that you can power-pack your dessert, but what if you want to enjoy a delicious chocolate treat before dinner--or even first thing in the morning? You’re in luck! A new study shows that having chocolate cake with breakfast can stave off cravings for sweet treats throughout the day and help promote and sustain weight loss. Over a 32-week period, researchers found that subjects who ate a 300-calorie piece of chocolate cake along with their breakfasts sustained about a 75% weight loss over the subjects who ate breakfast alone.  

Want to start enjoying all the perks of being a chocolate eater? Try these delicious recipes for raw chocolate truffles and chocolate covered pomegranate!

What’s your favorite chocolate treat?