“Use chocolate properly and it is an incredible ally that has a multitude of health benefits,” Dr. Rachel Taylor

Do you experience chocolate cravings and then feel guilty for scoffing a whole bar or two? According to neuroscientist Dr. Rachel Taylor, eating high-quality chocolate with no shame is so good for you, that there ought to be a nationwide campaign to encourage the habit.

Rachel is a huge fan of Food Thoughts Roasted Cacao Nibs, because they are made from the finest cocoa beans, contain no sugar and add a crunch to bakes, yoghurt, fruit salad etc. They are roasted, like a coffee bean and have an intense chocolatey flavour. She also enjoys good quality 100% cocoa dark chocolate but says that most well-known confectionary brands create a sugar addiction, rather than give you the benefit of chocolate’s medicinal properties. Anything that contains 70%+ cocoa is good for you.

Here are a few of the reasons why Dr. Rachel says we should all be eating at least 10 grams of high-quality chocolate, such as Food Thoughts Roasted Cacao Nibs on a regular basis:

Mood enhancing

Chocolate really does make you feel good, but only if you eat the good stuff and don’t feel any shame afterwards. “It contains tryptophan, which encourages the body to release serotonin, a hormone that will make you feel good. You also get a hit of endorphins and dopamine. The higher the percentage of cocoa in the chocolate, the better it’s going to make you feel,” says Dr Rachel.

Improves concentration

If your brain is feeling a bit foggy or you have an exam or a tricky piece of work to complete, have some chocolate – you only need 10 or 15 grams of the good stuff. “Chocolate is a stimulant in its own right and sharpens the brain’s ability to focus. A little bit of chocolate can really give you mental clarity,” Rachel explains.

Detoxes body

Good chocolate is bursting with flavonoids, a chemical that helps purify the body. Dr. Rachel reveals: “It is an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation. They also help the body get rid of the toxins that clog you up. Flavonoids are also really good for the nervous system.”

Improves sleep

“Chocolate encourages the release of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep patterns. Research has also shown that the magnesium contained in dark chocolate, also helps your body recognise the cycles of day and night. A soothing cup of hot cacao has been used as a sleep aid for millennia.”

You can’t have too much

If you are eating really good quality chocolate with a low or zero sugar content, it is impossible to overdose. It has a bitter taste and your brain will tell you when you’ve had enough. “Most people’s brains and taste buds have been tricked by confectionary brands. Because of the taste, the brain never knows when it’s had enough. With real chocolate the body will make you feel satisfied once it has got what it needs from it.”

Helps beat sugar cravings

Real chocolate is a treat, while the sugary confectionary variety is an indulgence, because it isn’t good for you. “If you introduce proper chocolate into your diet, you can wean yourself off sugary junk food because your palate changes and it alters the structure of your brain. Your brain actually wants the good stuff. What you get when you eat a sugary bar of chocolate is a false high and that is followed by a slump and that’s what leads to addiction. With good quality chocolate, you never get on that roller coaster of hell. When you connect with what your body needs, it makes you feel better, not worse,” says Rachel.

Mystical properties

There is a long tradition of ancient wisdom associated with cacao. The shamans use it as a tool for healing. Says Rachel: “You don’t have to take yourself off to the jungle to enjoy the benefits of a cacao ceremony, you can do it in your own kitchen. Chocolate is a plant medicine that helps people connect with various organs of the body, in particular the heart and that can give people a mystical experience.”

Can alleviate menopausal symptoms

“Chocolate boosts mood, can lift brain fog and the good stuff is packed full of nutrients, such as vitamin K, iron, selenium and zinc.It’s a really beneficial food for perimenopausal and menopausal women.”

Provides vitamins that vegans often miss out on

A handful of roasted cacao nibs are ideal for vegans, because they often miss out on B vitamins, which are vital. B vitamins help the blood cells carry oxygen around the body. . B12 is particularly important as it’s difficult to get in artificially in supplements. A deficiency in B12 can result in a fatigue, headaches and mental impairment.

Good for the heart

The anti-inflammatory flavonoids in dark chocolate and cacao nibs improve blood flow. “Chocolate has also been shown in decrease blood pressure in healthy individuals as well as those with cardiovascular disease,” says Rachel.

Food Thoughts Roasted Cacao Nibs cost £3.60 for 125g and are available in Sainsbury’s (where they are currently 50p off), Waitrose and online.

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