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It is a fact that many people love chocolate. In my never-ending attempts to connect food and health, and with Valentine’s Day approaching, I want to point out the health benefits of chocolate.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Saint Valentine, who is the patron saint of Love. It is said that God, our Creator, worked through Saint Valentine to perform many miracles to teach people how to know, and experience, true love.
What better a day to indulge in chocolate than on Saint Valentine’s Day, the day of opening our hearts and expressing our love for those near and dear, with gifts of flowers and chocolate!
The science of chocolate is actually quite solid – even the National Institute of Health has amassed a substantial body of research on the benefits of chocolate. The chocolate and cocoa industry is worth over approximately 9 ½ billion dollars. Now, that's a lot of chocolate! No denying its popularity!
Over more recent years the darker chocolate has become much more popular, as claims of the heart health benefits of dark chocolate are being made known. Unlike many marketing claims, these claims are backed by science.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of consuming high quality dark chocolate:
- Dark chocolate, defined as over 70 % cocoa, is loaded with nutrients. It is rich in iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, and a few other minerals.
- Dark chocolate is perhaps most widely acclaimed for its role in contributing to heart health.
- Cocoa and dark chocolate come with way more powerful antioxidants than most other foods. As these antioxidants make it into the bloodstream, they protect lipoproteins against oxidative damage, hence lowering oxidized LDL. In the long term, this should cause much less cholesterol to lodge in the arteries, resulting in a lower risk of heart disease.
- Dark chocolate can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure, though the effects are usually mild.
- Cocoa or dark chocolate may improve brain function, by increasing blood flow.
- Dark chocolate has been shown to relax the arteries for over 3 hours after you eat it — good for the heart and for blood pressure.
Choose Quality Chocolate
A lot of the chocolate on the market is not nutritious. Very few ingredients — cocoa, butter, fat and sugar — are actually needed to make quality chocolate. Some chocolate varieties have cocoa alone, or cocoa and cocoa butter. Cheaper chocolates will contain other fats and cow dairy, and may be high in sugar. Or, if no sugar, high fructose corn syrup.
Some of the cheaper chocolates will not even contain cocoa, just chocolate flavorings. It’s very common to find chocolate-flavored candy that looks like chocolate, and more-or-less tastes like chocolate, but lacks the “mouthfeel” of true chocolate because it's merely “chocolate flavoring” or “compound chocolate” — a candy flavored with cocoa, but its fat content derives from vegetable oil rather than cocoa butter.
People who know the really high quality chocolate, will immediately spot the poor quality chocolate versus the high quality chocolate. Choosing quality dark chocolate means chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content. Quality dark chocolates typically contains small amounts of sugar. The darker the chocolate, the less sugar. If you want a flavored chocolate, organic chocolate is your best bet against artificial flavorings.
So when you are thinking about getting a gift for your loved ones this Valentine’s Day, bringing love and chocolate together sounds to me like a delicious way of doing something good for yourself, loving yourself, and your loved ones with just a little bite more. Eat chocolate.
While Valentine’s Day is one of those days we want to splurge a little, it is not a good idea to go all out and consume lots of chocolate every day. It’s still loaded with calories and being so delicious, it is easy to overeat. Perhaps indulge with a square or two after dinner. If you want the benefits of cocoa without the calories in chocolate, consider making a hot cocoa without any cream or sugar.
Choosing organic chocolate is your best protection against pesticides and artificial chemicals. Growing and harvesting cacao beans is an arduous process for producers. Choosing free-trade chocolate will support cacao famers.
APO E Gene - Hot Chocolate Recipe
Ingredients for 1 single cup.
- 1 tsp Apo E organic cocoa or cacao powder
- ¼ cup of boiling water
- 1 cup of organic oat milk, or soymilk
- Vanilla extract — to taste
- Cinnamon and/or nutmeg
- Grated chocolate
- Honey – if you want added sweetness. Make sure your hot chocolate is warm, NOT hot, before you add the honey. Heating raw honey potentially weakens or destroys enzymes, vitamins and minerals.
Choose your favorite mug or cup, and add 1 tsp Apo E Gene organic cocoa powder.
Heat or steam your almond milk, oat milk or soymilk. If you are heating it on the stove top, heat in a medium pan. If you love the foam, bring the milk to a rolling boil for a few extra seconds. If you have a milk steamer, it’s easy to make that delicious foam!
Add some boiling water to the cocoa, stirring well as you add the water to the cocoa powder. Mix well.
Add your heated or steamed milk.
Sprinkle with your favorite topping — grated chocolate, nut meg or cinnamon.
Add honey, when slightly cooled.