What’s that you say?? Chocolate is good for you??
Okay, okay…before you go out and buy out the Halloween candy aisle at the grocery store, there are a few rules. Many children (and I was one of them) long for the “I can eat anything I want” aspect of adulthood,imagining, perhaps, swimming pools full of Skittles and rivers of chocolate.
While as an adult you are certainly able to eat whatever you want if you like, the act of responsible eating does come with certain caveats. Some may call them limitations. I call them positive choices. Happily, there are positive choices you can make to still be able to enjoy that dark and lovely goddess, chocolate.
Positive Choice for Chocolate #1 – Go Natural
In order to derive the most health benefits from chocolate, it is necessary to stick as close to its original form as possible. This doesn’t mean you must only munch raw cacao beans fresh out of the pod, of course, but having a basic understanding of the origin and processing of chocolate is helpful in making positive choices.
Many people are unsure of the difference between cacao and cocoa, besides a couple of switched-up letters. Quite honestly, I didn’t know until I looked it up. Cacao is raw and unprocessed; the word refers to both the bean used to make chocolate and to the tree on which it grows in pods. Cacao powder is made from ground, unroasted cacao beans. While processed cocoa powder may have added sugar or cocoa butter, cacao powder has neither.
Cocoa powder is the processed version of cacao powder. Cacao beans used to make cocoa powder are roasted before grinding into powder. Sugar and/or cocoa butter are sometimes added to processed cocoa powder.
When choosing chocolate to eat, the darker the better! Good quality dark chocolate will list the cacao percentage on the package. While opinions differ, I’ve generally found that most health authorities will agree that this number should be at least 65%. Milk chocolate contains a minimum of 10%.
Having dark chocolate with higher cacao content actually doubles your positive choices. Yes, you’re benefiting from the flavonoid antioxidants found in cacao (possible positive effects on the body may include improved blood flow to the brain, improved mood and reduced fatigue). Also, by replacing Snickers, Hershey bars and M&Ms with a small amount of dark chocolate you are avoiding putting overprocessed, chemical-laden substances into your body.
Shhhh…hear that? It’s your body saying, “Thanks!!”
Positive Choice for Chocolate #2 — Combine With Other Healthy Foods for a Nutrient Boost
Two flavonoids, catechin and quercetin, work exceptionally well together to provide extra health boosts. Catcechin, found in cacao, is an antioxidant that may help to reduce the risk of clogged arteries and cancer. Apples, raspberries, blueberries, citrus fruits and buckwheat are all good sources of quercetin, an anti-inflammatory flavonoid that may also help with ensuring that blood flows smoothly.
I don’t know about you, but I can think of a ton of awesome combinations of chocolate and quercetin-containing foods! Chocolate buckwheat pancakes, chocolate-dipped raspberries and apples, citrus-infused chocolates…oh, wow!
Positive Choice for Chocolate #3 — Always in Moderation
As with many things, moderation is key when it comes to enjoying chocolate. The recommended daily intake of dark chocolate is no more than 3 ounces. Something to keep in mind…just because dark chocolate contains compounds that may be beneficial to your health doesn’t mean it is calorie, carbohydrate and fat free! One ounce of 65% cacao dark chocolate contains approximately 166 calories, 11 grams of fat, 14 grams of carbs, and 9 grams of sugar. Plan accordingly!
Positive Choice for Chocolate #4 — Buy Organic and Fair Trade
A large percentage of the world’s cacao supply is grown in underprivileged areas in West Africa and Latin America, making its growers and their workers easily susceptible to exploitation. By buying chocolate products that have been certified organic and fair trade, you will know that you are making positive choices for the environment and for equitable treatment of others. Read more about organic and fair trade chocolate.
Now that I’ve written all about dark chocolate I’ve developed a huge craving! I’m off, then, to dig up some seriously awesome recipes…look for them on the blog soon!
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