Greenwood Health Kick – The “Fountain of Youth” Flows with Chocolate

Writer / Alicia Wettrick

If Ponce De Leon were alive today, his search for the “fountain of youth” would end at the social gather around the table top, plug-in chocolate fountain. The notion that chocolate can promote health and youthfulness is not a modern idea. Back in the 1570s the cacao beans and cocoa started gaining popularity as a medication and aphrodisiac. The first health benefits were published in 1653, praising chocolate as a great stimulate for the spleen and digestive system.

Today several research publications regarding the health benefits of chocolate continue to “sweetened the pot” for the healthy eating enthusiast. However, it’s a bittersweet relationship, only the LOW FAT, LOW SUGAR, DARK CHOCOLATE rich in cacao or cocoa is shown to promote health. Unfortunately, the other chocolate products promote more risks than benefits.

The cacao bean, which comes from the cacao tree, is rich in flavanols, a type of antioxidant. Foods in abundance of flavanols have many health benefits. The higher the cacao or cocoa percentage in your chocolate means the more flavanols you will consume and dark chocolate is where you get the biggest bang for your buck.

Several research institutes, including John Hopkins and Harvard University, studied the effects of daily consumption of chocolate high in flavanols (1-2 ounces daily). The research found several positive effects, such as a reduction in cardiovascular disease, improved mood and increased cognitive function.

Decrease Heart Disease and Stroke by:
– Reducing blood pressure
– Slowing platelet clotting
– Reducing LDL oxidation (the bad cholesterol)
– Anti-inflammatory action
– Increase insulin sensitivity (reducing blood glucose)

Improve Mood and Cognitive Function by:
– Increasing blood flow to the brain (research showed improved memory and thinking scores in elderly)
– Increase serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and sleep)

I Say Cacao You Say Cocoa- Is There a Difference?
Yes, there is. At the refining process, cocoa nibs or powder is made from the cacao bean, in its raw uncooked state. When cacao beans are cleaned, roasted and processed, it is called cocoa. The process method used to produce cocoa can reduce the flavanols but still contains a sufficient amount for health benefits. Unless the cocoa is “processed with alkali” or “dutching” this makes the chocolate less bitter, but the amount of flavanols is reduced by more than half.

What to Look for in Healthy Dark Chocolate
– Cacao/cocoa >70%
– Avoid cacao “processed with alkali” or “dutching”
– Sugar should not be listed before the cacao or cocoa ingredient. Sugar should not dominant. (Ingredients are listed from most to least quantity).

Dark Chocolates to “Fall in Love With”
– Green and Black’s Organic 70%/85% cocoa
– Ghirardelli Intense Dark 72%/86% cocoa
– Endangered Species 70%/72%/88% cocoa (organic)
– Godiva Dark 85% cocoa
– Dagoba eclipse 87% cocoa (organic)
– Chocolove 70% cocoa
– Lindt Excellence 75%/85% cocoa

Dark Chocolates to Dump
– Dove Dark Chocolate- very low in cocoa, alkali processed
– Hershey’s Special Dark- high in sugar, alkali processed
– Dark Chocolate M&M’s- ambiguous ingredients, high sugar
– Nestles Dark Chocolate cocoa – high sugar and tans-fat, proceed with alkali

If you want to avoid sugar and be low in calories, you can get cocoa nibs or powdered and add to hot water, coffee or tea. Cocoa nibs, powder or healthy dark chocolate is found at Market Thyme, Earth Fare and other grocery stores.

So this Valentine’s Day enrich your loved one’s heart physically and passionately with a little dark chocolate.

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