Chocolate- is it really that bad?

by | Aug 20, 2013 | Food, Recipes, Sweets | 0 comments

Chocolate is the single most craved food (closely followed by pizza in second place). The good news for most of us is that chocolate really isn’t as bad as it is made out to be. It possesses many health benefits that have been known since the Native Americas were using it in the 17th and 18th centuries.

  • It is a stimulant, relaxant, euphoriant and anti-depressant and can improve memory, concentration and focus.  It triggers the release of endorphins which is why we feel so good after eating it.
  • It’s a rich source of anti-oxidents.
  • It has many reported cardiovascular benefits. These include reducing blood pressure, reducing angina pain, improved insulin sensitivity, prevention of blood clots and reduced LDL cholesterol levels.
  • It is a good source of magnesium (which is often the reason that women crave it premenstrually)

While it does contain some caffeine, the actual level is very low. For example, a standard cup of coffee contains 150mgs of caffeine (anywhere between 40-180mg dependent on the strength) while a cup of pure hot cocoa only contains 5-10mgs in 150mls. A standard chocolate bar has 5-20mgs caffeine (and in no way am I giving the green light to chocolate bars!).

What type is best?

Now hold on- while this might make some of you feel better after your Easter egg binges, this does not apply to the majority of chocolate consumed.  This does not mean that you can let yourself go over a block of family sized Cadburys dairy milk chocolate, packet of maltezers and a caramel koala!

I’m sure most of you have guessed it by now. We are talking about over 72% dark chocolate only.

Dark chocolate contains antioxidant compounds known as polyphenols. The amount of polyphenols in dark chocolate, in particular constituents known as ‘flavanols’ are responsible for the health benefits. Unfortunately for some of you, the absorption of these flavanols is reduced as soon as milk proteins are added. This means the anti-oxidants are not effective in anything with milk or white chocolate.

In fact did you know that milk chocolate actually contains no cocoa? It contains cocoa butter only, as well as high amounts of sugar, milk solids and vegetable fats.

Dark chocolate has to be at least 70% or more cocoa as anything less than this usually contains high levels of sugar and saturated fat. You can now enjoy 2 squares daily of dark chocolate, guilt free! I enjoy Green and Blacks Organic 80% dark chocolate.

Raw cocao nibs- the new superfood?

Cocao nibs are bits of fermented, dried, roasted and crushed cocao beans. You can buy them from health food stores and have an intense chocolate taste, but are quite bitter and not sweet. They are a great addition to you diet. I add mine into my power smoothies for breakfast- they give a yummy mild chocolate flavour. They can be added into muesli, cereals, yoghurts or into a raw nut mix. Below are some recipes you may like to try. If you have any other recipes using cocao nibs, please forward them onto me!

Almond delights

Ingredients:

½ cup almonds, finely ground

¼ cup walnuts, finely chopped

¼ nut spread (any will do)

2 tablespoons agave syrup

2 tablespoons finely ground cocao nibs

½ tsp vanilla essence

¼ cup dessicated coconut

Method:

Add all ingredients together except for coconut. Mix well. Place coconut onto a plate. Using a teaspoon at a time, roll into a small ball and coat with coconut. Place onto a plate and serve. Will keep in the fridge for up to 7 days. Makes 18 balls.

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