Happy summer! Finally, well maybe almost here in the Pacific Northwest. It usually arrives right after the 4th of July so we are right on track. Time for a little fun in the sun and easy, lazy days so thought I might share with you some yummy facts to lighten your day and make you smile big. And just in time for WORLD CHOCOLATE DAY!
Chocolate is Good for Your Mouth
WHOA! Chocolate not only tastes good but is good for you?!? More pointedly, it is good for your teeth and maybe even your entire body. Be still my healthy heart. Being a chocolate kind of person, I loved learning about this. (Yes, it does contain sugar and we will address that shortly.) But isn’t that great news that chocolate is actually good for you!?
Chocolate is magical! But then chocoholics already knew that. The magic in those little cocoa beans is due to the tannins, polyphenols (which wine has too… a blog post for another day) and flavonoids that are strong antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that neutralize free radicals and prevent cell damage. Free radicals cause “oxidative stress” and cell damage which is bad for your body, and is related to many chronic diseases. Chocolate to the rescue!
Therefore, the higher the cacao/cocoa percentage of your next chocolate bar, the more awesome antioxidants you’ll consume.
The tannins inhibit bacterial growth on teeth. (Reducing plaque biofilm.) Polyphenols neutralize the bacteria that cause bad breath, preventing gum disease and stopping tooth decay. (Reduces strep mutans and strep sobrinus that cause dental diseases.) The flavonoids slow tooth decay. All this from something that also tastes so good. Eat more chocolate!
During a trip to the Caribbean I visited a chocolate plantation and watched how the cacao seed was transformed into something that would become the deliciousness of chocolate. Interesting that they figured out how to take that seed and many steps later create something that tastes fabulous. They knew a good thing even then.
Chocolate – Darker the Better
Dark chocolate is the key. It is loaded with antioxidants. Look for chocolate with around 70% cacao on the label. Cacao is the raw form of chocolate while cocoa is the heated version of cacao. Dark chocolate has a more bitter taste than the more popular milk chocolate, but does contain less sugar.
The darker the chocolate, the healthier it is, containing more dietary flavonoids. In addition to being good for oral health, these flavonoids may also be linked to a lower risk of coronary heart disease as well as lowering your risk of insulin resistance, improve blood vessel flow, possibly reduce high blood pressure in adults and inflammation body-wide. It is rich in many minerals, including iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, and copper. Magnesium is a mineral needed for over 300 different enzyme reactions in your body but lacking in many peoples’ diets. (Of course more research is needed to confirm this, I bet there will be many volunteers for that study.)
Chocolate – The Love Drug
Fun fact- the Aztecs considered it an aphrodisiac and the famous Casanova drank chocolate before seeing his lovers. Chocolate contains a small amount of a chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA) which acts as a central nervous system stimulant and releases dopamine and norepinephrine. PEA is linked to mood, attention, physical energy, and emotional euphoria. Thus, chocolate’s connection to Valentine’s Day and it being a “love drug.”
(I digress but just had to share these cool chocolate facts.) Back to teeth – one of the ingredients in the cacao seeds is theobromine which is a safe substance for humans (unlike fluoride…). And unlike fluoride, it is safe to swallow. (Ever see the warning labels on commercial fluoride toothpaste? – read the fine print…)
This is the magic part- theobromine increases the crystal size of hydroxyapatite. (The hydroxyapatite is the main inorganic ingredient of tooth enamel.) This makes the enamel harder. Think cavity prevention!! With Chocolate. And with this hardness comes remineralization and even reversal of small cavities in the enamel surfaces.
In fact, theobroma cacao is said to mean “food of the gods,” and many experts consider cacao to be a “super fruit.” Chocolate is a gift from the gods, to be sure.
Time to talk about the sugar in chocolate. Dark chocolate has less sugar than milk chocolate. And here’s the thing, everything in moderation. A diet high in sugar triples your risk for cardiovascular disease. But, my mentors Drs. Bale and Doneen prescribe 7 grams – one small square – of dark chocolate a day for a healthy heart, as well as cancer and stroke prevention plus a host of other things. Hm, doctors’ orders! So, while there is sugar, the good things chocolate does for the entire body may just outweigh the potential negative effects of the sugar.
Making Your Own Chocolate Toothpaste
Who needs commercial toothpaste when you have awesome products to make an even better toothpaste in your own hands? A toothpaste you and your little ones can safely swallow, that remineralizes teeth, reduces plaque biofilm, has no unwanted additives and tastes great! And it is safe enough to eat? That sounds perfect to me! Healthier for you and your family. We have been so conditioned to purchase toothpaste but this paste is a great option.
So, chocolate- yup! How do we incorporate that into toothpaste? With Cacao nibs! Cacao nibs are cocoa beans that you can purchase that are cracked, fermented and broken into pieces. Dr. Mark Burhenne from Ask the Dentist has a great recipe for DYI toothpaste. Get that blender out and make your own toothpaste.
For those that love chocolate but don’t really want to to be a DYI’er there is a chocolate toothpaste called Theodent (link is an Amazon affiliate link!). All the convenience of a yummy paste without the mess. And it prevents cavities.
Brush twice daily for two minutes, spit and do not rinse after brushing. Allow the remnants to remain in your mouth and on your teeth. Chocolate toothpastes for the win!
Happy World Chocolate Day July 7th. I see no reason not to celebrate every day with a small square of dark chocolate. Here’s to preventing cavities, healthy gums, oral health and wellness along with a happy heart!
Cheers to chocolate!
Lover of dark chocolate with nuts