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If you were to go on a Valentine’s Day date with chocolate (yes, please!), it would take hours and hours of deep, delicious conversation to begin to understand its complicated personality. Chocolate has been described as one of the most complex foods in the world, containing morethan 300 chemicals that give it its addictive flavor and unmistakable scent.
These chemicals include the stimulants theobromine and caffeine, the aphrodisiac phenylethylamine, and — no surprise for chocoholics — a happiness-boosting compound called anandamide, which derives its name from the Sanskrit word for “bliss,” “joy,” or “extreme delight.” Cocoa contains more antioxidants than green tea, and may help lower your risk for heart disease and cognitive decline. Now that’s good chemistry.
Another reason to crush hard on chocolate (as if you needed one): it can be good for your teeth! Cocoa beans are rich with chemical compounds called tannins, flavonoids, and polyphenols, which are all types of antioxidants that work to prevent tooth decay.
Tannins bind well to bad bacteria and prevent it from clinging to teeth. Flavonoids can inhibit plaque formation and reduce the counts of a cavity-causing microorganisms called oral Streptococci. Perhaps most powerful of all, polyphenols blast away destructive bacterial biofilm and acids that cause dental caries. In fact, some studies on cocoa show that it could be even more effective than flouride in fighting cavities due to its antibacterial properties.
But before you go swishing with Swiss Miss, remember that it’s the cocoa beans, not the sugar and other additives in most candy bars, that have the cavity-fighting superpowers. So go dark with your chocolate and seek out bars that contain at least 70 percent cocoa. Look on the label to make sure there’s no more than 6 to 8 grams of sugar per serving — or better yet, find a sugar-free option, like Pure Cacao, Strawberry, & Coconut from Raaka.
Also, look for “Fair Trade,” “Direct Trade,” or “Transparent Trade” labels to make sure the bars you buy are as beneficial for the people making them as they are for your mouth. Mmmmm. Chocolate, we’re ready to propose!