Have your chocolate and eat it too

With Easter this month some of us might have been indulging in chocolate a little more than usual. Chocolate seems to be everywhere, tempting us. Certainly in my house there seems to be an abundance of chocolate waiting to be savored and enjoyed. Some of us may feel guilty about consuming chocolate or over eating it at this time of year, so I am here to tell you that you can have your chocolate and eat it too. Yes, the right type of chocolate has many health benefits.

What’s the right type of chocolate?

Chocolate was originally herbal medicine and is made from the seed of the cocoa tree. The darker the chocolate the higher the nutritional benefits. The healthiest option is dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa, higher if possible. Look for the best you can find: no extra additives; least amount of sugar as possible; and organic.

Nutritional benefits of dark chocolate

Dark chocolate contains the following constituents and health benefits:

Phenols: a type of antioxidant which enhances the immune system and may prevent ulcers. The major phenols in chocolate are epicatechin and catechin. These substances are also found in green and white tea.

Theobromine: a natural vasodilator, which helps open up veins to let blood flow easily thus reducing blood pressure and cholesterol.

Stearic acid and Oleic acid: stearic acid is a saturated fat found in the cocoa butter. Interestingly, it doesn’t raise the LDL (bad) blood cholesterol levels but converts it to oleic acid (a heart-healthy, monounsaturated fat) in the liver.

Phenylethyamines: work in the brain creating heightened senses and a feeling of well-being. They boost serotonin and endorphins leading to improved mood and pleasure.

The good news for milk chocolate lovers

Unfortunately milk chocolate doesn’t have the health benefits of dark chocolate. Milk binds to the antioxidants in the chocolate and makes them unavailable to the body. However, the good news is if you start eating dark chocolate your taste buds will become accustomed to the taste and minus the fat content of the milk chocolate you will feel like eating less of it. Trust me, you will.

How much can I have?

Be discerning. One to two squares of good quality dark chocolate, savored after a meal, will give you your chocolate fix without impacting your health negatively.

Cautions

Migraine risk: some people may experience an increase in migraines when eating chocolate regularly due to cocoa's tyramine, histamine, and phenylalanine content.

Osteoporosis risk: there is some evidence that chocolate might lower bone density and strength if consumed regularly.

High calories: despite the health benefits of dark chocolate, it is still a high calorie food which does mean not having too much!

Keep away from pets: the theobromine in chocolate is a mild stimulant. A two-ounce piece of chocolate can kill a dog by overstimulating their heart and kidneys.

Recipe ideas

Classic Almond and Cacao Energy Balls: Deliciouslyella

Ingredients:

200g almonds (1 cup)

400g medjool dates (2 cups)

4 tablespoons raw cacao powder

2 ½ tablespoons almond butter

2 tablespoons coconut oil

Method:

  • Begin by placing the almonds in the food processor and pulsing until they are nicely crushed.

  • Add the medjool dates and coconut oil and pulse until it’s fully mixed.

  • Add the almond butter and cacao and then mix again in the food processor.

  • Take a tablespoon of the mixture and roll into a ball. Continue doing this until the mixture has finished.

  • Place the rolled balls into the freezer for around 1 hour, then remove and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Healthy dark chocolate fondue: Living Healthy with Chocolate

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

4 tablespoons raw cacao powder

2 tablespoons raw honey

6 tablespoons coconut milk, full fat

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon arrowroot powder

Pinch of salt

Strawberries or other fresh fruits

Method:

  • Add all ingredients to a large heat-proof bowl.

  • Set bowl over a saucepan with a dash of water and simmer over low heat, making sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl (double boiler).

  • Stir until all ingredients are combined, and becomes thicker in consistency.

  • Serve immediately with fresh fruits, or pour in an airtight container and store it in the fridge. Re-heat the chocolate as needed.

Enjoy

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