Chocolate for your health?
While "sweets fats & oils" are low on the food pyramid, soon, they might want to take another look at chocolate. As this natural product from the cacao bean is studied further, it seems like only more good aspects come to light! Chocoholics may have a reason to rejoice, but that doesnít mean just any chocolate will do, if you want to use it for anti-aging, insulin-sensitizing and fighting off heart disease. If youíre firmly in the Ďvanilla campí by all means, skip over this article because youíre about to learn just how amazing this delicious food really is!
The story of chocolate started long ago, with the native people of South America. You probably learned in history class how the ancient Aztec kings would drink up to 10 cups of cocoa-water a day, hoping it would lead to immortality. While it clearly didnít perform miracles, it was delicious and did help their health. The story continues up to this day, with a discovery on San Blas Island. The people who live there drink many cups of cocoa each day, and when they were studied, they were found to have extremely low incidences of common maladies like diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease. But donít just take my word for it, use Google to look up words like "San Blas Island" and "American Journal Clinical Nutrition" as theyíve written up studies on the subject.
If you want to skip the studies, itís time to cut to the chase on chocolate.
Why is it so good for you?
Chocolate is loaded with anti-oxidants. These special substances fight free-radical damage in the body. Free radicals are caused by oxidization (you, breathing) pollution or chemicals (itís everywhere) and the regular metabolism of foods, as well as exercise. The more anti-oxidants you have, the better you are at stopping free-radical damage and fighting off signs of aging. But just how much is inside chocolate? Blueberries (and other dark berries) are widely publicized for their anti-oxidant propertiesÖbut dark chocolate has 12 times the ORAC value of blueberries! What is ORAC? (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) itís a statistic that the US Dept. of Agriculture judged.
Second, chocolate contains magnesium. Magnesium not only helps you sleep better, helps you absorb calcium from food better, and helps your heart-health, it also works for your immune system too. Chocolate is one of the easiest natural sources of magnesium. Brazil Nuts also have it, but how common are those? And what if you donít like them?
Third, it helps with insulin sensitivity. Insensitivity can lead to diabetes, so you want all the sensitivity you can get. Proper blood sugar regulation also helps you maintain steady energy throughout the day. Along with this comes the ability to lower blood pressure and increase vascular health. After all, the big cocoa-drinkers on San Blas have a super low rate of heart disease, and their cocoa is the key.
In researching, you might find that Mars (they make M&Ms and other candies) put up money for scientists to study chocolate. Of course, they would love it if they could find a way for their tasty products to be good for people too. So why didnít you hear about the study? Because it found that dark, unsweetened chocolate is what works. NOT candy bars, milk chocolate, white chocolate, or sugary sweets. The sugar in sweets causes inflammation and an insulin reaction, so itís not going to help you. The study results may have disappointed the company, but it can still benefit you!
How much do you need to eat per day?
Only about 2 teaspoons (thatís not much at all!) will give you a beneficial level of all the wonders cocoa has in store. The best type to get, is the lowest sugar possible chocolate. Sugar-free cocoa (also called baking cocoa, bitter chocolate) is ideal, especially if you choose an organic brand. This is JUST cocoa, with nothing else added. Be sure to avoid "Dutch Process" and "Special Dark" varieties as they have been treated, and that removes some of the benefits.
How can you eat it?
Asking a chocolate lover how to eat chocolate may seem a little silly, but when youíre looking at 2 teaspoons per day, for as long as possible, it can become a task. Since itís sugar-free, you canít just expect to mix it into milk or water and have something youíll like. There are plenty of ways to get your 2 teaspoons of health-power per day, when you know about another natural secret: Stevia. Stevia is derived from the leaf of the stevia plant, but it looks like a white powder. It tastes VERY sweet, but it produces no insulin response. Itís also natural and safe, unlike artificial sweeteners. With it, you can sweeten without sugar & inflammation. Now you can add the cocoa to milk, coffee, energy shakes, plain yogurt, and so much more without having to worry if it will taste Ďbitterí.
If you want a mini-recipe that will power up your energy levels, keep you feeling full AND deliver a powerful punch of pure healthiness, try the following mixture:
1 single-serving cup of plain, sugar-free, fat-free plain yogurt (6 oz)
and stir in either 4, 5 or 6 teaspoons of unsweetened, pure cocoa powder,
along with about 1/8th teaspoon stevia (up to ľ tsp, to taste)
and 2 or more teaspoons of chia seeds
Mix well, and youíve got enough for two days. (that is, if you can resist the tasty treat for that long!) What do the chia seeds do? They keep you feeling full longer, add calcium, complete protein, and B-vitamins to the mix. They also have more magnesium and are loaded with soluble & insoluble fiber. Donít worry about tasting them, either, they have no flavor of their own, so you wonít even notice them. Not only is this mixture delicious and super-good for you, itís also very inexpensive to make. You can spend a bundle on designer yogurts that are loaded with sugarÖor you can mix up this simple treat and enjoy all the healthy benefits it conveys.
If there was ever something easy and tasty to do for your health, adding cocoa to your diet is surely at the top of the list! How will you use this to improve your health? Are you ready for more healthy tips and recipes?