It’s that time of year of again when little goblins and fairies appear to let us know the holiday rush is about to begin. This is also the time of year where I feel I am being stalked by chocolate. October marks the beginning of all those perfectly bite-sized treats. Those mini-peanut butter cups, fun-size M&Ms and bit size snickers. They don’t go away until after Easter! From October through April, that aisle in every store calls my name. So to answer the call, I like to have fun with chocolate!
Plus chocolate is beneficial for your health! Studies show that chocolate, dark chocolate specifically, is high in antioxidants. Antioxidants helps our bodies’ cells repair damage by free radicals. Without antioxidants in our diets, our levels of bad cholesterol rise. Think of antioxidants as a police system in our bodies. When our dietary budget is low and antioxidants are cut back, crime (LDL – bad cholesterol) starts to rise.
Antioxidant flavanol is the main type of flavanoid found in chocolate. Flavanol naturally occurs in plant-based food and can be found in cranberries, tea and red wine. Remember that one glass of red wine may be good for your heart? Same goes for chocolate, except not a glass full.
And not all forms of chocolate are up for grabs. According to a 2007 article in Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, 70% dark chocolate was shown to be most beneficial in lowering blood pressure, improving cardiovascular health and enhancing glucose tolerance.
So how much is recommended? The answer is really around the concept of moderation. Chocolate is not a health food for it is also comes with a high saturated fat content. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (July 2007), reported that participants given about 30 calories of dark chocolate per day showed a reduction in blood pressure.
More recently, in an August 2010 article in the New York Times researchers found that “Women who ate an average of one to two servings of high-quality chocolate per week had a 32% lower risk of developing heart failure. Women who had one to three servings per month had a 26% reduced risk,” based on a nine year study of nearly 32,000 women in Sweden.
How do we get the benefits?
Choose quality chocolate and enjoy in moderation. Moderation does not mean a whole candy bar, not even half. Moderation is equivalent to 2/3 of an ounce to an ounce of dark chocolate, about 28 grams.
That doesn’t sound like a lot you ask? You’re right it isn’t – not for me anyway. I have a huge sweet tooth! My sweet tooth is so big that I dare not keep sweets in the house. In fact, my boyfriend took all that junk food earned from the back-to-school 10k and hid it from me! His hiding the chocolate from me (and me letting him) is a good thing; otherwise, it would be gone within an hour! You see, I’m the type of person that realizes junk food is bad so the only logical way to get it out of the house, according to me, is to…eat it! So how do I and others who may follow my “eat it to get rid of it” strategy survive? We have fun with chocolate!
Here are some ways I have fun:
- Drizzle it, don’t dip it. Melting an ounce of chocolate and drizzling it over fresh fruit such as apple slices, banana slices or strawberries is a great way to get a lot of sweetness in moderation.
- Drink it. Mixing three tablespoons of cocoa powder with hot milk and a little splenda, is a great way to unwind on a cold night.
- Bake it. Adding chocolate chips (dark chocolate chips) or chunks to cookies, muffins, and quick breads can help satisfy that need to feel bad. Show strength by allowing yourself one serving (one cookie, one muffin, etc.) and freeze the rest for later!
- Savor an ounce of pure dark chocolate with a glass (5 oz pour) of red wine for an alternative dessert.
Remember to practice moderation. After all, if chocolate were a health food we’d get all the good benefits and none of the bad saturated fats.