It’s True – Something this Good Can Also Be Healthy
Okay, healthy in moderation only, but who wants to quibble. Let’s not dissect our chocolate. This incredible food, in its most unprocessed forms, contains over 350 biologically active compounds. As in all whole foods, the total effect is greater than the sum of the parts.
Theobromine, one of the best known chocolate constituents, is a mood enhancer and mild stimulant. Flavonoids are plant chemicals, strongly represented in chocolate, with numerous beneficial effects:
- Help balance inflammation
- Protect the circulatory system and help prevent blood clots
None of these benefits have much to do with why I start my week with a large chunk of dark chocolate. On Mondays, the week seems endless. The weekend, already past, beckons strongly. A bit of pampering is irresistible. The health benefits are only a nice add-on.
So first thing Monday morning, I breakfast on whole grain cereal topped with fruit and two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds. This is my usual fast weekday breakfast. The Monday difference is using chocolate soy milk, not the usual vanilla, over the cereal.
About 9:30 or 10 am, it’s time for another dose – this time half a dark chocolate bar. My favorite way to relish this Monday chocolate is in small
pieces, dipped into some soy yogurt stirred with nuts. I love everything about this hard dark chocolate: the aroma, the taste, the texture, how it makes me feel. I sniff my chocolate deeply before consuming. Anyone walking by might wonder what I was up to.
After finishing the chocolate, I still have a bit of soy yogurt and nuts to enjoy. Hot green tea is the last necessity of this weekly ritual. The rest of Monday just streams away, and soon the rest of the week as well.
Half of a 3.5 ounce chocolate bar is enough for the desired effect. My favorite is Equal Exchange Chocolates, mint flavor, which is both organic and fair trade. This delightful product is 67% cacao, which means that chocolate is the main ingredient.
Dark chocolate is REAL chocolate. The milk version, aside from the issues with dairy foods, dilutes the chocolate, making it almost flavorless compared to the real thing. Also, be aware that Dutch processed chocolate, in order to remove this food’s bitter edge, also strips many of the beneficial chocolate components.
Learn to love slightly bitter chocolate – you’ll get used to this flavor faster than you think. There’s no pay-off in tricking your body with common candy bars that have more milk, sugar, and chemicals than they do chocolate.
Dark chocolate is gourmet on a budget, feel-good without later mood crash, circulatory enhancer without prescription cost or side effects. Read the label to eliminate brands with milk or butter. Have fun trying all the others – new possibilities grace store shelves as more and more people discover dark chocolate as the best occasional junk food treat.
You actually will benefit from and enjoy dark chocolate most when you choose moderate amounts. Half a bar a week – any day you’d like – should be enough to reward yourself without gaining weight. Okay, maybe twice a week, but then treat yourself with other whole foods instead….
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Blog posting by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet, the smart person’s nutrition book built on sustainable food choices. Enjoy six kinds of whole foods for permanent, hunger-free weight loss and health.