There aren't too many people I know who DON'T like chocolate. I know this because I review diet with my clients. Every time someone comes in with acne or aging skin concerns, I have to deliver the bad news about chocolate.
However, its not the chocolate itself that's a problem for skin - its how its processed and what additions are made. Most chocolate candies and baked good are made with dairy and sugar.
Chocolate is a plant!
What we think of as chocolate is derived from cacao, a seed pod that grows in South America and West Africa. The cacao seed has a bitter taste, but has some great health benefits;
- lowers blood pressure
- high in antioxidants
- improves cognitive ability
- boosts mood (yes, hello!)
- rich in magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc and copper
The processing determines what happens next - cacao or cocoa?
Cacao has gained popularity in recent years because of the Paleo movement. It is heated at a relatively low temperature to separate the cacao bean from the fat (cacao butter). The low heat helps retain the nutrients.
Cacao beans are cracked to become cacao nibs, which you can use as part of trail mix or sprinkled on top of a healthier snack like plain yogurt.
Pulverizing of the cacao gives you cacao powder, which can also be used in baking and desserts. Some people like to sprinkle it on top of their coffee; other use it in smoothies (that's how I disguise the dark leafy greens in my skin-healthy smoothies).
Cacao butter, the fatty part, is used in baking and in skin care moisturizers.
Cocoa, on the other hand, is heated at a high temperature, which means it loses more of the nutrients than the cacao. In some cases there are alkalizing chemicals added that cause further loss of nutrients. Cocoa is seen as either Dutch processed chocolate or cocoa powder, typically used in cakes, candies and other desserts.
Dairy and sugar
Dairy is added to chocolate candies and many baked goods. Some skins react to dairy with worsening acne. It also plays a role in aging because of how it limits your body's ability to absorb phytonutrients like those found in cacao.
Sugar causes other big skin problem called glycation. When sugar binds to proteins like collagen and elastin, it destroys them. This plays a role in common aging skin complaints - wrinkles, uneven pigment, sagging and dullness.
Because glycation weakens the skin barrier, acne and rosacea are often exacerbated.
Choose wisely, grasshopper
My Grandmother lived to age 95 and was pretty darn healthy. When she had a shot of whiskey at holidays (yes!), she'd always say "everything in moderation".
As you work on moderation, it may be helpful to start looking at alternatives like the cacao mentioned above. Your taste buds may take awhile to adapt, but once you do you won't miss the sugar and dairy.
You can do this!
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