With Easter right around the corner (April 5), temptations for sugar laden treats will abound. So how can you continue to stay the healthy course without feeling deprived?
Dark chocolate to the rescue!
Are you a dark chocolate fan? Have you ventured to try it yet? Were you swayed by the milk chocolate of the Willy Wonka age?
Well, believe me when I say that dark chocolate is not only great tasting, but is here to stay. No doubt you have seen much more dark chocolate popping up on retail shelves in the last five years or so. That is due mainly to the research that continues to show the health benefits that correlate to the properties dark chocolate possesses, in addition to its great taste!
White and milk chocolate contain more sugar than anything else. In contrast, dark chocolate contains cacao. Pronounced “ka-cow,” it is the part of the actual cocoa bean that is used to make the chocolate liqueur contained in chocolate. Cacao percentages are usually marked on the outside packaging of a dark chocolate. The higher the percentage of cacao in a bar, the more nutritious and some would say “bitter” the chocolate is.
Now, don’t get scared by the word bitter. To me, the higher the percentage of the cacao, the more flavor the chocolate has, and the less guilty I have to feel about eating it! I encourage you to experiment with different cacao percentages, and decide for yourself what tastes best. For a guide on how to purchase and correctly taste chocolate, email me at email@example.com
As with all foods, moderation is the key. But there are some very healthful qualities in chocolate that contains cacao, especially dark chocolate.
One of those beneficial substances is flavanols. Flavanols are an organic compound that can function as an antioxidant. They are credited with stimulating the lining of arteries to produce a gas that allows the arteries to relax, which can improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure. Other foods credited with this effect are tea and berries. You have probably read about the antioxidants that can be found in red wines. This is one reason chocolate and red wine paired together is a great health and taste combination.
A dark chocolate with a high cacao content, 75% or more, can contain fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium. By reading the label on your chocolate bar, you will see this information and the % of your RDA that is satisfied with eating the dark chocolate treat.
Dark chocolate is also said to raise HDL and protect LDL levels, which can be important when looking at the risks associated with heart disease. This also links back to the antioxidant benefits in the chocolate. Some long term studies have said that the compounds in dark chocolate when consumed several times per week “should cause much less cholesterol to lodge in the arteries and we should see a lower risk of heart disease.”
There is also talk that the flavanols in dark chocolate could protect your skin from sun damage, and also improve brain function.
I’m not saying to stop taking your cholesterol or heart medications or use dark chocolate as a sun screen! But, I am saying that there are a lot of great health benefits to consuming dark chocolate with a high cacao content in moderation.
So, break out that dark chocolate bar, cut it into 1 oz squares, sit back, relax and pop one of those squares in your mouth. Let the warmth of your mouth, NOT YOUR TEETH, allow your taste buds to savor the rich flavors of the dark chocolate while you think about all the wonderful health benefits you could be gaining while enjoying this treat! Just this 1 oz. dark chocolate treat each day will satisfy your sweet cravings.
Today’s guest blogger is Mary Griffith, owner of Virginia’s Finest Chocolate by Mary in Williamsburg, VA. She has been in the business of crafting specialty chocolates, gift baskets and logo cookies since 1994. Mary also teaches classes for children, does chocolate birthday parties, and chocolate pairing classes for adults that involve wine or beer pairings, and chocolate education. You can reach her at 757-258-5465, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.chocolategifts.com
Photo courtesy of Jules via Wikimedia Commons. Edited by The Wellness Wife.
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