Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Health Benefits of Chocolate

Do you eat chocolate? If so, you could be doing yourself a favor. Chocolate has been reported more and more as having a positive effect on our health. According to The Heart and Vascular Institute of Cleveland Clinic, dark chocolate contains certain substances such as flavonoids which are beneficial to the cardiovascular and other body systems: "Flavonoids provide important protective benefits to plants, such as in repairing damage and shielding from environmental toxins. When we consume plant-based foods rich in flavonoids, it appears that we also benefit from this 'antioxidant' power." Chocolate also contains antioxidants. These "are believed to help the body's cells resist damage caused by free radicals, formed by normal bodily processes such as breathing or environmental contaminants like cigarette smoke. When the body lacks adequate levels of antioxidants, free radical damage ensues, leading to increases in LDL-cholesterol oxidation and plaque formation on arterial walls.

Does that give us license to eat any manner and amount of chocolate we please? Unfortunately, no. But a daily dose of minimally-processed, low sugar, dark chocolate is great for your health. As with anything else, eat this food in moderation and watch what other ingredients accompany the chocolate.

Avoid milk chocolate. Mauro Serafini, PhD, of Italy's National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research in Rome, and colleagues reported, "Our findings indicate that milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate ... and may therefore negate the potential health benefits that can be derived from eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate."

Read labels and become aware of what ingredients to avoid. Avoid anything you cannot pronounce, fillers, and emulsifiers (such as soy lecithin or soy oil). Many brands who sell organic chocolate use soy lecithin and other procesed soy ingredients, which are unhealthy to consume. It is best to spend the extra money on good quality chocolate and spread its consumption out over a period of days to a week. You can find outstanding quality chocolate bars in health food stores from brands such as Art Bar from Ithaca Chocolates, Health by Chocolate from Ecco Bella, and Sweet Earth Chocolate. There are many other good brands, just be mindful of what you are putting in your body and aware of ingredients.

Fantastic chocolate products are available from Dagoba Organic Chocolate including hot chocolate mix that contains no sugar. Simply heat some water on the stove and prepare your cup with a tablespoon of Dagoba. When the water boils, pour it into your cup and stir to blend with the chocolate. When you have thoroughly mixed your chocolate, you can add a bit of sweetner such as Stevia. Before you fill your cup all the way with water, for an absolutely, to-die-for creamy cup of hot chocolate -- add some whole, raw, organic milk or cream to your cup and stir well. Enjoy the great taste and health benefit of a homemade cup of real hot chocolate!

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