My first brush with real dark chocolate was a fine 70% cocoa organic dark chocolate bar from the island of Grenada in the Caribbean. In Grenada a locally owned sustainable business has cranked out the most phenomenal organic chocolate and cocoa butter for about 10 years now. There the rich brown cocoa is derived from the large yellow oblong cacao pods that dangle naughtily from bushes in defiance of gravity. The cocoa nibs are plucked from harvested cacao pods to be processed into cocoa powder for chocolate bars and cocoa butter for skin care. At the first nibble of this heavenly flavor, I wasn’t fully aware of the mighty health benefits of chocolate. I knew the Mayans sometime drank cocoa ceremoniously in place of blood in religious rituals--taking hot chocolate to another level. I’ve long heard rumors of chocolate as a potent aphrodisiac and it natural ability to bring on a state of euphoria. But what really are the health benefits of chocolate?
First, cocoa is labeled a “super fruit” for its extreme supply of antioxidants that slow the pace of free radicals from pollutants, food additives, pesticides and herbicides in non-organic foods. In powder form, a serving of cocoa packs more antioxidants than pomegranate, blueberries, or cranberries. Two teaspoons of cocoa powder have more antioxidants than 4 cups of green tea--pretty impressive. Then we find that the compound flavanol is found in larger quantities than the popular health-touted acai berries.
Flavanols are essential for maintaining firm, smooth hydrated skin that is naturally protected against sun damage. The National Health Institute has conducted research that found 20 grams of chocolate a day (half a bar) over a 12 week period boosts skin’s ability to fend off damage from sun exposure. Flavanol repairs skin cells as it promotes blood circulation, so that 20 gram daily dose of cocoa can make a difference in achieving healthier skin.
Cocoa butter, that delectable skin hydrator, visibly reduces the appearance of stretch marks and blemishes rapidly. If you suffer from overly dry skin, add some drops of your favorite essential oil like sweet orange or sandalwood. Then lather on some of this yummy stuff for the ultimate moisturizing experience that diminishes the crocodile scales on skin. Another plus is that your jar of cocoa butter has a shelf life of four years so you don’t have to worry “if it’s still good.” The theobromine in your wonder bar is what brings on the euphoric state as it increases blood flow that gives the appearance of glowing more youthful skin. As an oil extract, cocoa polyphenols have the capacity to inhibit the production of fat cells, is anti-diabetic, balances cholesterol levels and minimizes gout. And yes, the compound phenylethlamine present is responsible for charging that libido, aptly titling chocolate an aphrodisiac, so don’t be shy melt some on that tongue.
Whether you’re satisfying a late night sweet tooth or in need of deeply penetrating moisturizer rich in nutrients for healthy skin, cocoa is that optimal choice that puts you on a pathway to overall well being. While you’re at it try this:
Mayan Cocoa Mask
1 cup of organic cocoa powder
1 Tsp. organic honey
½ cup of organic goat’s milk
Heat the milk on stove top (do not boil) stirring in the cocoa powder as it heats. Add honey to warm mixture until it’s rather smooth (add more milk if needed). Be sure to clean your face with a gentle cleanser before applying this mask. It’s a warm sweet smelling mask that can sit for 10-15 minutes. Rinse with luke warm water and marvel at the beautiful results on your skin.
Joanna Vargas is a graduate from the University of Chicago and is a celebrity facialist well known for her unique facials and skincare treatments. She has been written about in Vogue, Allure and many other magazines. She is also the inventor and retailer of a full body LED light therapy bed and her own skin care products will be available soon.