What Are the Health Benefits of Chocolate?

How can something so divinely delicious be so good for you?

There may be no other food on Earth as universally beloved as chocolate. It’s included in nearly every celebration across the globe. In family recipes and traditions, it is ever-present. Vosges assures that they We’ll meet your chocolate demands with the finest chocolate truffles and bars. Fundamental to this favorite sweet is a dried, fermented, fatty seed. This seed, the cacao bean, is at the heart of chocolate production, and as adored as it is for its taste by chocolate lovers, it is also a food that offers numerous health benefits and opportunities for enhancing wellness.

Whole Cacao pod

The Ancient Food of the Divine and the Elite

To understand the origins of the reverence for cacao, we offer a little history.
Discovered in approximately 1500 BC, cacao was the godly food that granted energy and power to the ancient elite. Utilized by the Olmecs, Aztecs, and Mayans, cacao was a part of rituals for centuries.

In early medical books, cacao can be found in hundreds of entries.
Ancient Mayan myth says that cacao came down from the heavens when humans needed to regenerate. Cacao was also used to feed and regenerate the Earth. In ceremonies performed in sacred spaces, cacao was placed back into the Earth to request restoration of well-being for a community or people. The life force within the plant being given back to where it had come from and beginning the cycle of its use once more.

For ancient warriors, who were rationed bitter fermented cacao before heading into battle, cacao was recognized as a stimulant for the heart, giving them the extra energy they needed to calm their fears, bring them hope, illicit dreams, sustain them on their marches and give them a slight edge in battle. Aztec priests took to calling cacao by a different name that translates to “heart and blood,” recognizing what warriors had to gain by having it in their systems while at war.

Cacao was given its botanical plant name in the mid-eighteenth century. It was named “Theobroma Cacao,” which translates to “Food of The Gods Cacao,” which suggests that the name for the plant took into account its history and its medicinal value.

Cacao Pod

Our Modern Understanding of Cacao

In contemporary times, cacao has been deemed a superfood, a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being. This is good news for any chocolate enthusiasts out there, but you may still be wondering why chocolate is good for your health. This miracle of nature is at the center of many of Vosges’ collections with the goal to bring some of chocolate’s many benefits into your own rituals of wellness. Cacao is loaded with polyphenols and antioxidants, making this an energy booster and healthier alternative to coffee as it is more mellow and comes without the 'caffeine crash.' Though the Theobromine in cacao is a chemical that has a similar structure to caffeine, the difference is that instead of being a nervous system stimulant like coffee, it dilates the cardiovascular system. This results in the opening up of the blood vessels and a sense of alertness and relaxation at the same time. Cacao is quite literally heart-opening.

Consuming cacao as a beverage is a portal to deliver the health benefits of chocolate in its purest form. Elixirs leverage the healthy fats from cocoa butter, unrefined coconut nectar, and various adaptogens, spices, and flowers. As a start to the day or used as a pause to slow the day down and meditate, drinking cacao is a way to enhance your mood and enchant your taste buds. Cacao can also be made into cocoa powder, by roasting and grinding the cacao seeds. This offers another way to consume the cacao seed. You can use this cocoa powder in different recipes and any chocolate lover is sure to love the added health benefits as well.

Elixirs

Chocolate imbibed or eaten daily in small portions offers an infusion of detoxifying nutrients and botanical extracts that benefits the body and the mind as cacao also contains a variety of unique phytonutrients such as sulfur, magnesium, and phenylethylamine. It’s a great source of monounsaturated fat, cholesterol-free saturated fat, vitamins, minerals, fiber, natural carbohydrates, and protein. It is rich in plant-based iron and has nearly 40 times more antioxidants than blueberries. It offers more magnesium than any other food, a nutrient that’s important for many processes in the body, including regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar level, and blood pressure.

The benefits of eating chocolate expand into your mental health as well. It can also sharpen your brain and cognitive function while relaxing your body. Cacao contains anandamide, a neurotransmitter produced in the brain that binds to the THC receptors. It’s also known as the “bliss molecule” (named after “ananda,” the Sanskrit word for “bliss”). Anandamide is considered an endocannabinoid — a substance produced in the body that binds to cannabinoid receptors. It’s natural that we crave a chocolate bar when we’re feeling stress as cacao has the power to soothe anxiety, depression, raise awareness, encourage sleep, maximize compassion, and improve clarity. This is mindful medicine for your mental health.

While some might mistake chocolate as a culprit of weight gain, mindful consumption can be used to curb appetite. You may also be wondering about the different types of chocolate that give you the best health benefits. Consuming dark chocolate allows you to fill up quicker and reduces cravings for salty and sweet snacks. A small bit of chocolate before and after meals can be used to trigger the hormones that tell your brain, “I’m full.” The good news is that chocolate blended with minimal amounts of sugar and dairy is low in saturated fat and can still be sumptuously rich, delicious, and satiating without compromising the health benefits of the cacao.

Many studies also support the benefits of cacao flavanols. The link between blood pressure and high cocoa intake was described in a study of the Kuna Indians, an isolated tribe who live on the Caribbean Coast of Panama. Known for their low hypertension, cholesterol levels, and lower blood pressure, when they moved to and assimilated into urban areas, their blood pressure and insulin sensitivity went up. While they continued their traditional intake of chocolate, rich in flavanols, their rates of death from heart disease, cancer, and diabetes were significantly lower than their counterparts living in urban centers.

Chocolate fans rejoice! Eating chocolate is also useful in relation to the gut. Rich in prebiotics and probiotics, cacao is a feast for your gut microbes. Beneficial bacteria that reside in the digestive tract ferment both the antioxidants and the fiber in chocolate, so you get a treat, and your gut does, too.

Vosges and Cacao

One of the newest ways we’ve started to look at the cacao bean at Vosges is to consider its simplicity. We’ve given ourselves the challenge to be thoughtful, selective, and limit how many ingredients we use while still creating complex parfums that delight and surprise the palate. Whenever possible, we’ve chosen to use unrefined sweeteners and alternatives to dairy. For example, our vegan chocolate is dairy-free and flavored with fruit to eliminate heavy amounts of sugars. We’ve sought to understand how we could incorporate the parts of the cacao that are not typically used to make a milk or dark chocolate bar. We’ve utilized the whole pod as a way to celebrate its natural perfection.

We strive to bring attention to this wonder of nature for all of its nutritional assets. It’s at the center of everything we do.

We hope you will take a little time to enjoy and appreciate magical, vibrant cacao, for thousands of years, the most divine of foods for the mind, body, and soul.

Might we suggest a few of our favorites to begin or continue your exploration. Try our Elixirs, Vegan Truffles, Pure Plant Chocolate Bars and more from our Wellness Collection.