Love Chocolate? How To Be Healthy About It

Love Chocolate? How To Be Healthy About It [EXPERT]

How to incorporate chocolate into your health-conscious lifestyle.

If you're a chocolate lover then you probably don't need much convincing that chocolate is good for you. You are probably thrilled that right about now, the stores are overflowing with chocolate bunnies and eggs. Advice: My Boyfriend Isn't Supporting My Health Goals

For many of us, it's difficult to resist that dark, creamy decadence or even simply the taste of chocolate that is so often used to flavor ice cream, drinks, baked goods, sauces and just about anything edible. It's not surprising that as a species, we're addicted to chocolate because long before we realized its value, the Aztecs and Mayans were using it for money, trading the beans for food and animals. Yet, today, there are good reasons why we revere it as a food source.

According to David Wolfe in his book Superfoods, the cacao bean is complex, much like wine and coffee, having over 500 chemical compounds including theobromine, a cousin of caffeine, and phenylethylalanine, a substance that is released in the brain when we fall in love. It is also a source of the amino acid tryptophan, which is a precursor to the brain chemical and antidepressant serotonin. In addition, cacao's antioxidant levels rival those found in red wine, blueberries, and pomegranates so it potently protects our cells from free radical damage. Hell Yeah! 4 Tips To Feel Better About Your Body THIS SECOND

If that isn't enough, it is also one of the most abundant sources of magnesium which is important for heart and brain function, as well as healthy bones and muscle relaxation. It also provides a number of additional minerals including, iron, chromium, manganese, zinc, and copper. It is also a surprising source of vitamin C.

With everything going for cacao, it almost seems too good to be true. And in some cases, it is. To reap its benefits, the chocolate it goes into must be good quality, minimally processed and of course, consumed in moderation.

Like many foods, chocolate retains its potency the more it remains in its natural state and often, one of the many steps in its processing is roasting. While this creates a flavor profile different from raw beans, the health benefits are reduced and most chocolate today is produced from roasted cacao beans. 5 Food Label Dealbreakers

In addition, the higher the cacao content in a chocolate product, the better. For example, white chocolate actually contains no cocoa solids, which would give it the brown color but is made from cocoa butter or a non-cocoa based fat. Milk chocolate is typically 10-25% cacao and includes milk powder.

Chocolates considered dark contain no milk products and can have cacao contents 85% or higher. They're also lower in sugar than white or milk chocolate, making them bitterer and more satisfying. Often, a square or two of dark chocolate is enough to curb a craving.

To make the most of your chocolate-eating experience, focus on dark, solid chocolates or chocolates mixed with nuts, seeds, dried fruit or spices. In addition, use raw cacao powder or nibs when adding chocolate to raw foods such as smoothies, puddings or other raw desserts. 5 Food Label Follies

Here are two ways to add chocolate to your recipe collection:

1. Chocolate Yogurt: To a serving of plain yogurt, add a teaspoon of unsweetened raw cocoa powder, a bit of natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup, a few chopped walnuts and some dried fruit. This makes a wonderful breakfast, snack or even dessert.

2. Chocolate Cups: Using good quality baking chocolate, coconut, fruit, seeds, and nuts, you can create your own delicious chocolate treats.

If you've ever wanted to learn about the process of making chocolate, you can read and hear about it from a master chocolatier, Joshua Needleman, at his beautiful shop The Chocolate Springs Café in Lenox, MA. Joshua walks us through the chocolate making process and shares an inspiring story about how The Chocolate Springs Cafe came to be.

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