The Dark Truth: What Is The Healthiest Chocolate?
The media has duped you into thinking that all chocolate is good for you. To be clear, most chocolate is NOT good for you and has NO health benefit. This is especially true for the Valentine’s Day and Easter chocolates available at the supermarket or drug store.
The research about chocolate has been distorted and sensationalized. Most studies that have been published about chocolate focus on the benefits of flavanol found in cocoa. Store-bought chocolates varieties (Hershey’s, Russell Stover, See’s, and Whitman’s) contain very little (if any) of this compound. The milk chocolate and white chocolate varieties are the worst! But even dark chocolate (that is supposedly high in flavanols) varies greatly in flavanol concentration depending on the quality of the cocoa crop, harvesting methods, and manufacturing processes used. Not all dark chocolate is created the same.
Due to the various ways chocolate is made, and the lack of oversight in content concentration of flavanols or other ingredients in the preparation process, an ideal amount for dark chocolate consumption is difficult to determine. One study, targeting the effects of flavanol on blood pressure, found that 40 grams (1.4 ounces) of 74% dark chocolate daily had positive effects. However, most clinical trials find that consuming a small square (6 grams or 0.2 ounces) of dark chocolate daily is beneficial in terms of flavanol intake. Because of this, I would recommend consuming only a small amount of dark chocolate with at least 74% cocoa.
If you must satisfy your craving or give chocolates as a gift, skip those low quality milk and white chocolates. Instead, grab the >74% dark chocolate and remember brand matters. I recommend buying artisanal dark chocolate from a trusted company, like Mast Brothers or Fine & Raw. Both are committed to using high quality ingredients (Mast Brothers sails its own ship to collect raw cocoa from family farms overseas) and both pride themselves for minimally processing their products (Fine & Raw has that name for a reason). It may be bitter but the benefits sure are sweet!
Year-round Skincare Tips (including thermal water!)
Life on the west coast includes an array of climate conditions, from dry heat, humidity, and chilly winters. These temperature fluctuations and the ever changing moisture in the air can wreak havoc on our skin. Here are my tips to keep skin glowing no matter the season.
- Keep your skin moisturized from the inside out by drinking more water, at least 8-10 cups a day (64-80 ounces or 2-2.5 liters).
- Always moisturize with a facial lotion containing SPF 30+. It doesn’t matter if you live in an overcast city or bright sunny beach town, SPF is non-negotiable skin product. If you are prone to acne breakouts, avoid oil based lotions (creams) and stick with lightweight oil-free products (gels).
- Exfoliate once or twice a week. The best (and cheapest) exfoliators are homemade sugar/salt scrubs. You can tailor the mix to fit your skin type. Try soft brown sugar and avocado oil for sensitive skin or rough black lava sea salt and coconut oil for the deepest exfoliation. Feel free to add fruit or veggies to the mix to increase moisture (pineapple) or soothe and calm (cucumber). These work wonders on chapped lips too!
- Thermal (also known as micellar) water sprays are considered a staple for Asian and European skin care routines. Thermal/micellar water is naturally occurring mineral-enriched water found in hot springs. Minerals in the water (chloride, hydrogen carbonate, sulfate, carbon dioxide, iron, and sulfur to name a few) may improve skin conditions and have other health benefits.
- Diet, exercise, and stress exposure affects our skin, too. We know that stress increase the production of cortisol which in turn causes inflammation that can affect our skin (acne breakouts, dryness, redness, premature aging). So relax, eat healthy, and exercise often!
I am a firm believer that prevention is an investment worth making. Skin is the largest organ in the body and deserves your attention. It’s never too early or too late to develop healthy habits–these tips are for all ages!
If these basic skincare tips aren’t working, consult your primary care provider or dermatologist. Some people might benefit from prescription medications or cosmetic treatments.