Of course you could follow a Paleo Diet without ever touching a morsel of chocolate…..but why would you?
Although chocolate is technically not Paleo in the sense that your ancient ancestors definitely were not consuming chunks of chocolate around the campfire, dark chocolate, in moderate amounts can have its place in a well-formulated Paleo Diet. This is in part due to the numerous health benefits that have been correlated with the cacao component of chocolate.
Before you decide to include chocolate as a major food group, keep in mind that the darker the chocolate, the higher the percentage of cacao, the better.
Since chocolate is made from chocolate beans, you might assume that chocolate poses the same issues. Legumes are avoided on the Paleo Diet due to their high anti-nutrient and low nutrient contents along with the fact that they require significant processing to be edible and often exacerbate digestive issues.
However, when it comes to cacao, this is a simple case of mis-naming. Chocolate beans are not actually beans. Rather, they are the seeds of a fruit, much like a cashew (which is not a nut).
But, as with all modern foods you may choose to include in your Paleo Diet, sourcing and quality can differ significantly and matter a lot! There are significant differences in how healthy one type of chocolate is over another.
Many chocolate bars are filled with vegetable oils and corn syrup, which are in no way part of a Paleo or any healthy diet.
Furthermore, milk chocolates are full of pasteurized and homogenized dairy products, again, something you are most probably avoiding. Even so-called high-quality dark chocolates can have a variety of unsavory ingredients. It is important to always pay attention to the ingredients in your chocolate. Anything other than chocolate, some form of sweetener, cocoa butter, some natural flavorings are probably an indicator that this chocolate is not an ideal choice.
Yes, most dark chocolate bars do contain sugar! That percentage on the bar technically refers to the amount of chocolate in the bar meaning an 85% dark chocolate bar would be 85% chocolate by mass. The remaining amount is mostly sugar in some form.
This may not be worst thing, but it is something to be aware of, particularly if you are sensitive to sugar, are insulin resistant, or if you struggle with sugar cravings. Some people find that eating even a small piece of dark chocolate results in craving more sugary or processed foods. Understanding your body and knowing how you deal (or don’t deal) with eating sugar is important when choosing any treats. If even a little bit of processed sugar is going to result in your cravings returning, then dark chocolate may not be something you want to include in your diet.
You can make your own Paleo chocolate too – read more here >>>>
Benefits Of Chocolate
That being said, there are numerous health benefits in good quality chocolate!
Beneficial nutrients found in dark chocolate include:
Theobromine: A mild stimulant with a slight diuretic effect that helps to push out toxins. Can also give you a slight/very mild “rush” and acts as a mood enhancement.
Phenylethylamine: Mood enhancer and a low potency antidepressant. Works similarly to dopamine and adrenaline in the body. It can also increase levels of serotonin in the brain that can help if you are feeling down, depressed, or dealing with PMS. Can also increase circulation and reduce cholesterol.
Dark chocolate contains many essential minerals like magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium, manganese, and the vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, E, and Pantothenic acid. At the same time, chocolate does contain phytates meaning you may not absorb all of the minerals in chocolate. However, you will still absorb some which makes it beneficial.
Chocolate is high in anti-oxidants and polyphenols. Polyphenols are often cited as being extremely anti-inflammatory and contributing to lower rates of cardiovascular disease and even cancer. The high anti-oxidant concentration may also lead to greater natural UV protein
Dark chocolate has a healthy fat profile. The high fat content found in chocolate is predominantly made up of the healthy variety (monounsaturated and saturated), rather than the polyunsaturated Omega-6 fats that can be toxic and inflammatory to your body (and a Paleo Diet looks to minimize).
Dark chocolate has been found to lower blood pressure, improve insulin resistance, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and help with blood clots.
Like many foods from the plant kingdom, the cacao “bean” itself has powerful health-promoting properties. These seeds of a fruit are a rich source of healthy fat, antioxidants, several important minerals. Fermenting these beans, roasting them, and eating the results fits perfectly well within a Paleo framework and is a delicious treat for many.
The benefits of chocolate are obvious, but as with any indulgence, it is easy to overconsume. Learn to eat mindfully and savor each bite which is easier when choosing organic, dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content. Although dark chocolates often contain some sugar, the amounts are usually small and the darker the chocolate, the less sugar it will contain.
Indulging on Valentine’s Day and sharing a chocolate creation (or two) with someone you love is definitely something to savor!
Order a great meal from our menu (see this week’s selections here) and take the time to make a special dessert
You can definitely indulge and celebrate your love (Paleo friendly of course!) with our favorite chocolate recipes gathered right here for you
Hazelnut-Brown Butter Chocolate Hearts
Dark Chocolate Torte With Cherry Sauce
Chocolate Cupcakes With Maple-Vanilla Frosting
Red Velvet Brownies With Paleo Cream Cheese Frosting
No time to make your own?
Paleo Treats sells some seriously delicious desserts that will instantly capture the heart and taste-buds of any chocolate-lover. Check out the 6 different types of paleo cookies and bars that will satisfy your sweet cravings whilst still adhering to your Paleo lifestyle.