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Chocolate: Nutritious Superfood or Guilty Pleasure?

Valentines Day is a day to love, appreciate... and in my house, eat chocolate! Don't worry, I'm not here to ruin your evening of pleasure, in fact I'm here to share an article from my friends at Precision Nutrition that makes me feel a LOT better about my Chocoholism 😋🍫


Hope you enjoy....

Chocolate: Nutritious Superfood or Guilty Pleasure? Chocolate is one of those foods the media is fickle about. According to headlines, one day it's terrible for you, the next it’s a veritable superfood.

Can chocolate improve your love life? Urkel’s research is inconclusive. Trouble is, when TV morning shows talk about chocolate, they only tell you isolated research facts, void of any context. So is chocolate actually good for you? Let’s take a closer look. The potential health benefits of chocolate When people say chocolate is “healthy,” what they’re really talking about is the health benefits of cocoa, or cacao. (The terms “cocoa” and “cacao” aren’t technically interchangeable—cocoa is usually slightly more processed than cacao—but research has used both to investigate the effects of chocolate consumption on health markers.)

Cocoa (and cacao) are a concentrated source of flavonoids—natural antioxidant plant compounds that help fight disease. Interestingly, cocoa products account for a major proportion of flavonoid intake in Western countries. (Other sources: berries, green and black tea, leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, and red wine.)

With that background, here are some of those potential benefits... ▶️ Cocoa may help reduce blood pressure. Again, this could be due to flavonoids, which modify the production of inflammatory modulators and dilate blood vessels in the body, similar to omega-3 fats. ▶️ Cocoa may improve one’s cholesterol profile. Flavonoid-rich cocoa can decrease LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol. ▶️ Chocolate may boost serotonin. Carbohydrate-dense foods like chocolate can trigger serotonin production. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that contributes to your sense of wellbeing, so it makes sense that eating chocolate can make you feel good. However, the above factoids don’t give you the whole picture. Not all chocolate is created equal. Cocoa products exist on a continuum from minimally processed—and more nutritious—to highly processed. For example, consider the different types of chocolate: 🍫 Unsweetened chocolate is made from 100 percent cocoa liquor, or cocoa mass. 🍫 Dark chocolate isn’t actually a regulated category of chocolate. However, to get the best nutrition ROI, look for bars that contain 70 percent or higher cocoa solids, which will be high in flavonoids and still relatively low in sugar. 🍫 Milk chocolate must contain a minimum of 10 percent cocoa liquor and some form of milk. It has more sugar than dark chocolate. Here’s a comparison of four types of chocolate.

Notice that as you move along the continuum from pure chocolate to processed chocolate, the nutrient profile changes.


How to be a better chocolate-eater Share these tips with your friends / family who love chocolate and want to improve their nutrition: 💪🏼 Look for the real deal. When buying chocolate, read the ingredients. If possible, choose real chocolate—rather than candy bars—that contain as much cocoa (and as little other stuff) as possible. A good quality chocolate product will contain little more than cocoa mass, cocoa butter, and sugar. 💪🏾 Enjoy in moderation. While 100 percent pure cocoa is more nutrient-dense than a candy bar, it’s still high in calories. Most studies show that benefits peak when servings are limited to about 10 to 30 grams per day. (That’s about 2 to 5 squares.) 💪🏻 For “chocoholics”—seek out other sources of serotonin-boosting pleasure. Incorporating other serotonin-boosters like exercise, massage, social interaction, and humor (like watching a funny movie), may help avoid the situation Elaine finds herself in, below. 💪🏿 For bonus points: Try cooking or baking with pure, unsweetened cocoa. Want the health benefits of cocoa without the other additives? Add a small amount of unsweetened cocoa powder to your smoothies, oatmeal, or baked goods. Or whip up a batch of hot cocoa for a cozy warm-up on a cold day. (Recipe below.)

Real hot cocoa*. (Serves one; double the recipe to serve two.) Ingredients: 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (or sweetener of your choice) Pinch of salt 1 cup milk or milk alternative ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract Whisk together cocoa, sugar, salt, and about 2 tablespoons milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until cocoa and sugar are dissolved. Add in the rest of the milk, whisking occasionally, until hot. Stir in the vanilla, and serve. * Recipe adapted from Epicurious.com

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