For Valentine’s Day I thought it was appropriate to highlight a decadent, romantic food that symbolizes love: chocolate. Chocolate is absolutely one of my most favorite foods in the world. There is nothing better than sitting down with a hot steaming mug of coffee and a piece of chocolate and savoring each and every mouth-watering bite. I love hot chocolate, chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate brownies, chocolate cake….I could go on and on. But, the type of chocolate that is truly good for your health is not the type that you typically find in a Russell Stover heart-shaped box or a bag of M&M’s.
No, the type of chocolate that is as good for your tummy as it is for your heart is dark chocolate. In fact, you will not find any of the heart-healthy benefits in either milk or white chocolate. In many commercial candy bars, they add so much sugar, wax, artificial flavorings and chemicals, that any benefits of the cocoa are offset. Look for high quality dark chocolate that contains at least a 60% cocoa content. Ghirardelli and Lindt both make excellent 60% dark chocolate bars.
Dark chocolate is loaded with flavonoids, the same healthy substance in cranberries, apples, strawberries, onions and tea. The specific flavanoids in dark chocolate are called flavanols. Flavanols prevent fatlike substances in the bloodstream from clogging the ateries. This results in a reduced risk of both heart attack and stroke. The flavanols also help lower blood pressure. Cocoa also has magnesium, which is one of the most important minerals for heart health.
Flavanols in cocoa also modulate a compound in the body called nitric oxide. This is important because nitric oxide is critical for healthy blood flow and healthy blood pressure. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that dark chocolate not only decreases blood pressure, but also improves insulin sensitivity in health people. The fat in chocolate comes from cocoa butter and contains olelic acid, which is the same heart-healthy fat found in olive oil.
This is too good to be true right?
Well, Dr. Bowden says that chocolate is not for everyone because it can “trigger addictive eating behavior” and to only enjoy “in small amounts a couple of times a week.” I say, Bah! Humbug! I enjoy a special treat every night after my kids go to bed. I eat healthy 90% of the time, so I figure if I have a small indulgence each night, that is not going to kill me. Especially if I stay away from processed foods, ice cream, junk food and other food that are bad for me……If I want to enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate every night, along with a steaming mug of hot cocoa, then dammit I’m going to do it and enjoy each and every bite! Life without chocolate is a life not worth living.
My favorite way to enjoy dark chocolate is chocolate covered strawberries. I melt 60% cocoa Ghirardelli chocolate bar and dip strawberries into the melted chocolate. I will place on plastic wrap and stick in the fridge until the chocolate is firm. Delish!
Do you enjoy dark chocolate or only milk? Do you have any dark chocolate recipes? Please share!
Happy Valentines Day!