Saturday, April 21, 2012

Food Facts Friday: Chocolate, "Food of the God's"

In the days of the Olmec, Aztec and Mayan populations, the cocoa bean was consumed raw and lightly fermented. It was then thought to be, and still thought by today's standards by some, the "Food of the God's".
Raw Cocoa Beans
But you know, people hear, "Chocolate is good for you", and they go hog-wild!
Mmmm, mmm, good!
Well, I hate to rain on your chocolate parade, but a little perspective here, wouldn't hurt. On the down side, chocolate candy is still full of refined sugar and lots of saturated fat from the cocoa bean, added milk or milk powder, and some even have added vegetable oils, like palm oil.

So why is chocolate being touted as having health benefits?

Some scientific evidence has proposed that dark chocolate, in small amounts, can be a rich source of antioxidants and plant flavanoids, which have some unique anti-inflammatory effects on our blood vessels, increasing blood flow, decreasing blood pressure and increasing HDL (good cholesterol). Dark chocolate has even been linked to increased cardiometabolic health, like increasing insulin sensitivity!

Maybe you remember some other foods that I have posted which are high in plant flavanoids and help improve aerobic endurance (re: quercitin, found in dark fruits, onions, scallions, kale and broccoli)? So, there are plenty of other ways to look for a daily healthy dose of plant flavanoids - but there is something else that makes letting that little piece of candy melt slowly in your mouth. Maybe it has to do with the fact that besides the physical benefits, high quality chocolate offers some emotional benefits because cocoa contains a chemical, very similar to some of our own body's chemicals (dopamine and adrenaline), which act as mild antidepressants and positively stimulate mood.
Serenity, NOW!
The key is to savor this heavenly guilty pleasure 
while maximizing the health benefits. 

This can be done by choosing a healthy variety. Carefully read the label and make sure that the first ingredient is cocoa, not sugar. Also the cocoa content should be at least 70%. And you may want to avoid varieties formulated with mannitol or sugar alcohols, which could lead to tummy problems.

These guys got all their bases covered: Organic, Dark chocolate
& 73% cocoa content!
So, indulge, a little,
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