Over the last 10 years there has been much research done exploring the benefits of chocolate. It turns out that small amounts of dark chocolate or cocoa daily really does have a place in a healthy diet! Much of that research has been on the cardiovascular system. The compounds responsible for these benefits are the polyphenols, in those plants that give us colors and plant protection against pests, infection and UV damage.
Chocolate is from the beans of the Cacao tree, the seeds inside the cocoa pods that grow in Africa, South America and Indonesia. The beans are fermented to create the chocolate taste and dried into solids to sell as chocolate.
When we eat foods that contain polyphenols, they act as anti-oxidants, protecting your proteins, fats and DNA from oxidative damage. Oxidative stress plays a role in aging and studies show it increases degenerative diseases. Several studies show that chocolate consumption increases HDL cholesterol, the “good” type. Also the polyphenols protect the endothelial lining, the layer of cells that line the blood vessels, from free radical damage and helps control inflammation.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School were the first to observe that high blood pressure is unheard of in the Kuna Indians from Panama. There, cacao trees grow wild and they use the fruit as a staple in their diet daily. They eat so much cocoa they have the highest intake of the compound, flavanols, in the world. How? The typical Kuna drinks 5 cups of cocoa beverage a day and that does not count the cocoa they add to their food!
Cocoa has been found to help with blood pressure with the compound, epicatechin, which improves nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps promote relaxation of the blood vessels which keeps the blood flowing. Some of these cocao compounds help modulate inflammation, the start of all disease! It may even improve the skin contrary to the old believe that it causes acne! A benefit, unsuspected before, is the new possibility it may improve memory and protect brain neurons from damage.
The bad news is that many chocolate products on the market are loaded with sugar, milk and fat. Even worse are the artificial flavors, trans fat oils and other additives to extend shelf live. After you add all of these products to the chocolate you are left with little actual percentage of cocoa; so your benefits are diminished!
To really reap the benefits you should choose dark chocolate or at least a bar with a higher percentage of cocoa which means less sugar and fat. Studies show you can eat up to 41 grams of dark chocolate a day and not gain weight. Try looking for 60-70% cacao on the labels of your chocolate bars!
Or if that does not appeal put a little powdered cocao or raw cacao in your smoothie or add to oatmeal or yogurt. Try this recipe below.
This dressing is good on salads or with roasted beets and winter squash.
3 tbs. balsamic vinegar, 4 tbs. olive oil, 1tsp Dijon mustard, 1-3tsps. raw cocao powder and pinch of sea salt. Whisk together and place in jar, it will not last long!
Alfrescofoodandlifestyle.blogspot.com by Judith Fertig
Healing Spices by Bharat B. Aggarwal