Sweet Indulgence!

12 02 2013
Cathy Shaw

Cathy Shaw

Well, with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I find it necessary to focus on what else? Chocolate! I find it hard to say that eating candy is even worth it unless it contains chocolate. This year it is projected that candy sales (of course, mostly chocolate) will tip at 2.6 billion dollars! Yes I said BILLION!

Chocolate has held a high place at the table throughout history. Discovered thousands of years ago, chocolate played an important part in Mayan and Aztec cultures, used as offerings to the gods, as chocolate drinks during religious ceremonies and even as currency. The Europeans did us the lovely favor of sweetening and lightening it with sugar and milk (though it really wasn’t a nutritional favor) and concentrated its use in sweets and desserts. Over hundreds of years chocolate has evolved into what we see today, from the richness of Godiva to the all-American Hershey Bar.

Fortunately, research on the health benefits of chocolate has persuaded us to explore this tantalizing treat a little further. Studies suggest that chocolate may help us by impacting blood pressure and hearth health as well as increasing our intake of important antioxidants. But don’t go crazy…not all chocolate is created equal. Here are a few tips.

1 Choose dark chocolate:  The healthy properties in chocolate are in the cocoa solids, which make the chocolate darker. But don’t rely on looks! Chocolate can be labeled “dark” even if it does not have a

high concentration of cocoa….look for at least 70% Cacao or Cocoa, it should be on the label.

2. Avoid milk chocolate: The added milk (which gives it that creamy texture) inhibits the absorption of the “good stuff” in the cocoa, thus eliminating its benefits.

3. Look for cocoa butter:  During processing the natural fat of the cocoa bean is removed. Manufacturers of high quality chocolate will add this fat back in (cocoa butter). Most big manufacturers will replace it with partially hydrogenated oils (trans fat) to save money at the expense of your health. Read your labels! Choose products with cocoa butter rather than partially hydrogenated oils.

4. Does my great piece of chocolate need artificial colors, flavors and preservatives? Heck no! Choose one free of unnecessary “stuff”.

5. Make sure it’s fresh: It should have a glossy surface with dark color and reddish-black undertones. If it has grey or white patches and streaks or roughness, find a fresh one!

6. If you make the choice (and a healthy one at that) to use unsweetened cocoa powder in your recipes, look for powder that is not “Dutch processed” or “alkalized” which strips away the antioxidants and phenols beneficial for health. Try not to combine it with milk either as it decreases absorption of the “good stuff” as previously noted. Try adding it to your coffee which will give a real antioxidant punch!

Although your chocolate choice should not replace other healthy foods in your diet, it can be healthy if you choose wisely. So before you contribute to that $2.6 billion candy purchase for your sweetie, make your sweet indulgence one that will keep your hearts healthy together.

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One response

13 02 2014
Cindy Gay

I love this Cathy! I’m learning:)

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