If you think chocolate is “heavenly” you are not alone. The botanical word for Chocolate literally means ‘food of the gods”. During this month of Thanksgiving, let us remember to be grateful for the humble cocoa bean. For from the bean comes those chocolate chip goodies, chocolate kisses, and delicious desserts that lift our spirits even during the tough times.
It further enhances our enjoyment to understand why the chocolate is actually good for our health. benefits. Chocolate can be really good for us, but not all chocolate is the same.
If you want the health benefits, then forget about creamy milk or white chocolates and candy coated chocolate bars. Look instead on the label for dark chocolate.
The health benefits of chocolate come from flavonoids, a type of phytochemical found in the cocoa bean. Dark chocolate contains a higher proportion of cocoa than white or milk chocolate. The more cocoa a chocolate product contains, the better its health-promoting content.
So what does dark chocolate do for our health?
Research has shown that when dark chocolate is part of a healthy lifestyle, it can improve heart health, lower blood pressure and reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol. Louisiana State University researchers tested cocoa powders and found that certain bacteria in the stomach eat dark chocolate, ferment it and then release the anti-inflammatory compounds that benefit the heart.
Dark chocolate may also improve blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of developing diabetes.
How much chocolate should I eat to get the health benefits?
Limit the portion size because even though dark chocolate contains the “good for you” flavonoids, it also contains the “not so good for you “fat, sugar and calories.
Eating too much chocolate can undo any health benefits and lead to weight gain and the health problems that will bring.
A small portion of about an ounce should satisfy your taste buds, especially if you take your time, eat it slowly and savor that delicious taste! This will give some positive health benefits without adding to your waistline.
For example, a standard sized bar of Hershey’s dark chocolate has 531 calories compared with about 170 calories from an ounce of dark chocolate or about six Hershey’s Kisses. A one-ounce serving has roughly the same calories as an equivalent portion of almonds, another heart healthy food.
The research indicates that two to three ounces of dark chocolate a week is all you need to reap the health benefit. To satisfy your craving without the weight gain, a one –ounce square in the afternoon or as a mini – dessert after dinner is fine.
What type of dark chocolate should I buy?
A high percentage of cocoa will provide a higher content of flavonoids. Most milk chocolate contains up 50% cocoa, while some inexpensive chocolates contain as little as 7% cocoa. Look on the food label for dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa for the finest dark chocolate rich in heart healthy flavonoids.
Most dark chocolate bars with 70% or more clearly label it on the front of the package, but if you’re unclear, turn it over. If the first ingredient is milk or sugar, the bar is not going to have 70 percent or more cocoa content.
Buying fair-trade cocoa or chocolate also helps farmers get a better deal for their cocoa and benefits their communities.
Marbled Cherry Chocolate Brownies
You will need (for 12)
5oz dark chocolate, chopped
5 oz butter, cubed
½ c light soft brown sugar
¾ c granulated sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ c self-raising flour
8 oz lower fat soft cheese
6 oz fresh cherries, pitted
1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line the base and sides of a brownie tin with baking paper.
2 Place the butter, chocolate, light soft brown sugar and ½ cup of the sugar in a large saucepan. Heat gently, stirring all the time, until the chocolate and butter have melted. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
3 Whisk the eggs into the chocolate mixture, then sift over the flour, stir until thoroughly combined. Pour into the prepared tin and gently level the surface with
4 Beat the soft cheese and remaining granulated sugar in a bowl until smooth. Drop spoonsful of the mixture over the chocolate mixture and drag the tip of a knife through both mixtures to create a swirled effect. Scatter over the cherries.
5 Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until just set. The brownies should still be a little soft and squidgy in the center. Leave in the tin to cool completely before slicing.
When we think of chocolate, usually desserts come to mind. But believe it or not, chocolate makes a great addition to savory dishes, as well!
Here is a savory recipe I have selected for you to try…
Chili Con Carne y Chocolate
(Tex-Mex): 6 servings
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 onions, chopped
2 pounds minced beef
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 cans (14 oz.) tomatoes
2-4 red chilies, chopped
1 red sweet pepper, chopped
4 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground pepper
2 teaspoons oregano
2 bay leaves
2-3 teaspoons salt
1-2 cans (14 oz. / kidney beans, drained
2 oz. Dark bittersweet chocolate
Cheddar cheese for garnishing (optional)
1 Cook the minced beef, onion and garlic in olive oil.
2 Stir in tomatoes, chili, sweet pepper, salt and spices and cook for 15-30 minutes.
3 Add more chili, salt or spices as required.
4 Add beans and cook until heated.
5 Add chocolate, mix well when melted.
6 Serve with rice, cheddar cheese and a salad.