This is a tricky time of the year, as we probably all endured a round of sugar-laden holidays and now more hoopla has arrived with Valentine’s Day. So that means more sugar ninjas are lurking in the shadows to stealthily make their attack. But should that necessarily be a bad thing?
Chocolate – can’t we just be friends with benefits?
You may heard of the expression “a moment on the lips, forever on the hips”. Well, this silly and outdated saying is apparently from the 1930’s so I vote to do away with it, especially since my 94-year-old grandmother still says it. (Although, come to think of it, she does still have a fantastic figure!)
You’ve heard correctly that the health benefits of CHOCOLATE (yes, I capitalized it because it’s an important entity in most of our lives) may warrant a place in our everyday diet. But not all chocolate is created equal.
I’m referring to the only one that really matters when it comes to health – and taste, in my personal opinion.
“Dark” or “Semisweet” is named when it has >35% percent cacao solids by volume. But it’s the 70-90% variety that we’re really interested in as it contains a Hershey’s kiss-load of antioxidants, including resveratrol (also found in red wine), as well as plenty of that multitasking mineral magnesium.
Among its many beneficial properties, dark chocolate has been shown to:
· have a blood-thinning effect
· lower blood pressure
· reduce bad cholesterol and inflammation in the body
· boost memory
· be a stress-reliever
You can also keep the shape-shifting, belly-fat-inducing hormone Cortisol in check by adding dark chocolate to your arsenal of stress-soothing weapons.
Here’s what your choice of chocolate should offer you
The higher the cacao content in the chocolate, the healthier it will be. The brand of choice shouldn’t have any cheap vegetable oils or hydrogenated oils added, either.
However, due to the demand of cacao butter in the cosmetics industry, the price of chocolate has skyrocketed, so it’s only inevitable that the cheaper fats are being added for texture – that’s the smoothness, creaminess, or ‘mouth feel’.
Also, I’m not jumping on the “buy everything organic” band wagon, but conventional cacao beans are often pesticide-laden and GMO (genetically modified). So, buying organic chocolate (fair trade too!) is one wagon you might just want to hitch a ride on.
Lastly, do not settle for a bar that has sugar, or any of its bratty siblings, listed as the first or second ingredient. This is referring to all forms of sugar that ends in –“ose”…sucrose, fructose, maltose, and dextrose, but also the words ‘syrup’, ‘fruit concentrate’ and ‘evaporated cane juice’. (And that’s just the short list.)
Sugar, in any form, and by any name is just as toxic and addictive – told you they were bratty!
Interesting Cacao Facts & Chocolate History You Need To Know
· Raw cacao beans have one of the highest Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC value) of any food. Holy super-food Batgirl!
· Cacao was once used as currency and considered a high-trade commodity.
· Most white chocolate contains no cacao solids, only cacao butter and plenty of cheap fillers, so it’s not actually chocolate – just a type of confection.
· Did you know that at 122 years young, the once oldest living female Jeanne Louise Calment, partly credited her longevity with consuming 2 lbs of chocolate weekly? She also loved to sip on port wine. So to sum up: Chocolate + Wine = Longer Life!
Wondering what the difference is between CACAO and COCOA?
The terms are often used interchangeably as different spellings of the same word, but that’s a mistake!
According to Sarah at I Quit Sugar, here are the main differences:
Raw cacao [powder] is made by cold-pressing unroasted cacao beans. The process keeps the living enzymes in the cacao [powder] and removes the fat – the cacao butter.
Cocoa looks the same but it’s not. Cocoa powder is raw cacao that’s been roasted at high temperatures. Sadly, roasting changes the molecular structure of the cacao bean, reducing the enzyme content and lowering the overall nutritional value.
Be label savvy: Cocoa powder, Dutch-process cocoa or Akali-process cocoa is usually what you would find in the baking section of your grocery store.
So what can you use raw cacao for?
· In replace of regular, processed cocoa powder in any recipe.
· Cacao powder is great for smoothies, baking, raw energy bars, and even in crockpot chili!
· Sprinkle it on raw fruit, in homemade apple sauce or on your morning oats.
· Make your own chocolate truffles!
· Raw cacao nibs offer great health benefits, give digestive “bite” to smoothies, and gives excellent crunch to oatmeal, homemade granola, and in baking.
The possibilities are truly endless!
Written By: Krista Goncalves
Krista is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist (CHN), Registered Nutritional Counsellor (RNC) & Women’s Health Expert. She runs women’s health programs online and in her hometown of Kelowna, BC. She also blogs daily about current topics in Women’s Nutrition Health & Hormones at MakingLemonade.ca – empow(her) your health!