Eat More Chocolate

Give yourself a break and have some chocolate. Many studies have shown that there is antioxidants in the cocoa bean that are known to help lower blood pressure and keep arteries clean. Here are a few helpful hints:

1. Choose dark chocolate. The darker chocolates are less processed and contain more disease fighting flavanols than chocolate that is processed. In general the higher the percent of cocoa the better. Look at the ingredient list before purchasing because some manufacturers list sugar as the first ingredient. The better chocolate will list cocoa first.

2. Always check for sugar content. If sugar is down the list at number three or more, than it is a good bet this is a dark chocolate. The chocolates to search for usually have cocoa as number one and a fruit or nut as number two.

3. Practice portion control. It is hard when everything on the shelf is actually more than one serving. To reap the benefits associated with chocolate limit yourself to 1-2 ounces or roughly 150-250 calories per day.

The list of choices is enormous. Some of the best dark chocolates come from Europe, though some US producers are getting into the game. Alter Eco, Chocolove, Dagoba, Lindt and Endangered Species are all in the growing trend of treats. You can find these brands in just about any grocery store and even at some convenience stores around the nation.

Fruit fondues, trail mix, chocolate smoothies. So many choices, so little time. The next time you have a craving reach for the dark chocolate. It is satisfying and delicious.

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Can Chocolate Be That Good?

Healthy chocolate sounds like a dream come true, but is it really that healthy for you? Chocolate’s reputation is on the rise, as a growing number of studies suggest that it can be a heart-healthy choice.

 

Chocolate and its main ingredient, cocoa, appear to reduce risk factors for heart disease. Flavanols in cocoa beans have antioxidant effects that reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease. Flavanols, found more prevalent in dark chocolate than in milk chocolate or white chocolate, also help lower blood pressure and improve vascular function. Believe it or not, some research has linked chocolate consumption to reduced risks of diabetes, stroke and heart attack. Remember, everything in moderation.

 

Most commercial chocolate has ingredients that add fat, sugar and calories. Too much can contribute to weight gain, a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Choose dark chocolate with cocoa content of 65 percent or higher. Look at brands that are made from European companies, such as Lindt, where chocolate is the main ingredient. Limit yourself to around 3 ounces (85 grams) a day. However, this amount may add up to 450 calories to your daily intake so you may want to cut calories in other areas or step up the exercise to compensate.

Curbing those sweet cravings with a dose of good chocolate can actually help. Read the ingredient list before purchasing and then sit back and enjoy!

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Become A Convert

Most people have an aversion to dark chocolate. Personally, I prefer the dark chocolate over milk chocolate on any given day. In doing some research there are a few reasons you should convert to dark chocolate. It can be quite scientific, but it may help change your mind:

Dark chocolate contains higher amounts of a phytochemical called flavonols. Flavonol is a naturally occurring antioxidant found in various types of plants, in particularly, the cocoa plant.  The two most prominent flavonols are called catechins (a type of natural phenol and antioxidant) and epicatechins (a nutrient in cocoa).  A 2008 study with 5000 people who ate 2 squares of dark chocolate per day had a lower C-reactive protein, used mainly as a marker of inflammation.  In addition, flavonols can actually relax your blood vessels, which lower blood pressure and, in turn, lower your risk of a heart attack.

Dark chocolate has much less sugar than milk and contains more cocoa butter, which comes naturally from the cacao bean, and is mostly monounsaturated (healthy) fat.  The higher the percent of cacao the better. Eating 2 squares of dark chocolate will raise your blood sugar less than a potato or a slice of bread! This is a treat the body can easily accommodate.

Transitioning to dark chocolate can take time, especially since you are used to the “sweet” threshold.  Each dark chocolate bar has a different taste and feel, much like coffee, so experiment with different brands and bars, especially those made in Europe.

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Funky Flavors

Have you ever though of using chocolate with your bacon for breakfast? Do you think that chocolate on steak would be good? Many manufacturers are using chocolate in anything and everything. Seriously? With the health benefits that chocolate has these products not only add good for you ingredients but they also add something to the dinner table discussion!

Take Voges for instance. They are reaching out in some very exotic ways. They not only make a milk chocolate and bacon bar but also a dark chocolate and bacon! I’ve tried it and it is interesting. How about Indian curry, coconut and dark chocolate? You have to really open up to the idea that chocolate is good with almost anything.

There is nothing that won’t taste good with a piece of chocolate!

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