Seven Tips To Do It Right
Compelling scientific findings, published in peer reviewed medical journals, show significant health benefits for dark chocolate and cocoa powder. Here are the major ways that chocolate helps you avoid chronic illness.
Dark chocolate and cocoa powder help the inner walls of your arteries function better. As a result of this and more beneficial effects, these chocolate foods:
• Lower blood pressure
• Make blood clots less likely to form in your arteries
• Reduce the risk of heart attack, heart failure, and stroke
• Increase the distance patients with peripheral artery disease can walk
Other great results
Research studies indicate dark chocolate and cocoa powder:
• Decrease insulin resistance and lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes
• Increase the antioxidant activity of your blood
• Are anti-inflammatory
• Enhance cognitive function in both healthy adults and in elderly people who already have some
Scientists are still determining the mechanisms through which chocolate brings about these health benefits. Much interest centers on flavanol, a kind of phytochemical (health-enhancing substance found only in plants) that is particularly high in chocolate. However, this food contains hundreds of other components that researchers have identified, and likely thousands of others waiting to be discovered. So it’s a mistake to focus on one or two substances. Instead, you can benefit from chocolate without worrying about all the mechanisms of action.
SEVEN TIPS TO GET THE MOST OUT OF EATING CHOCOLATE
While chocolate can boost your health, too much of a good thing can rapidly turn into a bad thing – especially when we’re talking about candy. Here’s what you need to understand.
ONE. Eat dark chocolate or cocoa powder. Dark chocolate is hard, and includes both solids and fat from the cacao bean, whole cocoa powder is the solid part of the bean that has been ground. On the other hand, milk chocolate and so-called white chocolate do not have the health benefits of dark chocolate or cocoa powder.
TWO. Be careful what else is in your chocolate. In fact, milk has been shown in some studies to negate the beneficial effects of chocolate . Avoid chocolate that contains milk, butter, or any other animal food component – even dark chocolate can have milk ingredients, so read labels carefully. Also, aim for
chocolate with a low sugar content.
THREE. Eat chocolate with as high a cacao bean content as possible – the percentage is shown on the label of high quality chocolates. Since much of the rest of the bar is sugar, this will help you keep your sugar intake down. Cocoa powder without added sugar or other ingredients is all cacao bean for practical purposes.
FOUR. Watch out for Dutched chocolate and cocoa powder. Dutching (or alkalizing) is a process that reduces the naturally bitter taste of chocolate, and at the same time removes at least half the known healthful components of this food. Much chocolate and cocoa powder are not labeled as to whether they have been alkalized – you may have to check the manufacturers website, or even give them a call. Most large commercial brands have been alkalized.
FIVE. Cocoa powder has significantly less calories than chocolate bars have, so you can consume more chocolate with less weight gain. Add cocoa powder to smoothies, or even oatmeal, and search for other healthy recipes online.
SIX. Eat chocolate in moderation. One to three ounces a week for chocolate bars should be sufficient to reap the health benefits without contributing to weight gain. Or select a few tablespoons of cocoa powder spread throughout the wekk instead.
SEVEN. Select chocolate products responsibly. Organic chocolate is sustainable for the planet, and has fewer chemicals to disrupt your health. Also be alert to how the cacao beans were grown. In West Africa, where 70% of the world’s chocolate is produced, large plantations still use abusive child labor. These shameful conditions are largely kept hidden by governments and major candy companies to keep the
price of chocolate down. Most organic chocolate is sourced from Central and South America, where abusive child labor has not been found, so by choosing organic you are also fighting child labor. If you are not sure if the brand you are interested in uses beans grown with child labor, please do some online research to find out, and avoid products that are mysterious about their origins. Ethical chocolate companies are proud of their cacao sourcing, and will happily share details with you. The chocolate may cost more, but the additional amount is well worth it.
If you are used to milk chocolate, Dutched chocolate, or dark chocolate with low cacao content, your tastes can change. A slow transition is fine. For example, you can mix alkalized and non-alkalized cocoa powder in whatever you are cooking, gradually transitioning to using only the less processed kind. If you are eating chocolate bars, have an ounce of the less intense chocolate and a small nibble of the healthier kind. Gradually switch the proportions until you are eating the best chocolate. Once you get used to the irresistible aroma and knock-out taste of the highest quality chocolate, you’ll never want to go back to the watered-down stuff. Your body will thank you.
If you enjoyed this post, you may want to check out the yummy chocolate smoothie recipe (it’s even enhanced with vanilla extract for increased anti-oxidant punch). Feel free to get creative with the recipe to suit your own preferences.
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Blog posting by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet: How to Lose Weight and Get Healthy Now With Six Kinds of Whole Foods, a book that shows you how to thrive on a whole foods, plant-diet. Janice is happy to share that she is a chocoholic and has trained her tastes to favor intense chocolate flavor.