Eat Well to Be Well: Chocolate – Love at first bite – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Eat Well to Be Well: Chocolate – Love at first bite

Who would have thought the seeds of an evergreen tree native to the tropical regions of Central and South America could produce a food so luscious, so delicious, and yet surprisingly good for us? This tree, known by its scientific name of Theobroma cacao, “theos” meaning “god” and “broma” meaning “food,” literally means “food of the gods” and what a perfect way to describe its product – chocolate.

In the past, chocolate often had a tainted reputation. Described as “sinfully delicious” this “decadent” food item was associated with causing obesity, acne, migraines, dental cavities and certain “death by chocolate.” Thankfully, scientific research resurrected its reputation and we can enjoy the bountiful health benefits it has to offer. In honor of American Heart Month and Valentine’s Day, let us count the ways why it’s okay to love chocolate – in moderation.

1. Flavonoids. The cacao plant chocolate comes from is exceedingly rich in flavonols, a type of plant-based antioxidant. Not just any chocolate will do though. The darker the chocolate, the higher percentage of cocoa content, meaning more cocoa solids and more of the healthy flavonoids. Unsweetened cocoa powder has 88 to 96 percent cocoa solids, dark chocolate contains 45 to 80 percent, milk chocolate has 5 to 7 percent, and white chocolate does not contain any.

2. Vascular health. Because of the flavonoids chocolate contains, this helps to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, and make blood platelets less sticky to reduce clotting and risk of a stroke.

3. Lowers blood cholesterol. But wait, isn’t chocolate full of fat? Yes, chocolate does contain fat, but it’s in the form of stearic acid and oleic acid. Stearic acid is a saturated fat but, does not raise blood cholesterol like most saturated fats. Oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat, does not raise cholesterol and may even help lower it.

4. Prevents memory decline. Researchers at Harvard Medical School suggest drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day may help preserve memory by improving blood flow to the brain.

5. Protection against type 2 diabetes. A study in The Journal of Nutrition suggested consuming high levels of flavonoids found in chocolate and also in tea, berries, and wine may possibly prevent developing type 2 diabetes.

Even though chocolate has gained its respectability back in recent years, don’t make a mad dash to the candy aisle just yet. One of the reasons chocolate tastes so good is that it is usually paired with sugar and fat resulting in more calories. Too much of a good thing may end up tipping the scales resulting in weight gain.

So, if you love chocolate and want to reap the benefits it can provide, what’s the best way to choose your chocolate wisely? Experts recommend one ounce of dark chocolate with at least a70 percent cocoa content daily. One ounce may sound small but even dark chocolate is high in calories and fat. To make it last longer, take your time enjoying it. Savor the rich, full-bodied flavor dark chocolate has to offer.

This Valentine’s Day, don’t choose just any box of chocolates to give to your sweetheart. Show how much you really love them by buying heart healthy dark chocolate. Charles Schulz, creator of Charlie Brown, got it right when he once said, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”

Here’s a delightfully delicious chocolate dessert which comes from the book, “Comfort Food Fix,” by registered dietitian Ellie Krieger. It is an excellent source of iodine, manganese, riboflavin, selenium, phosphorus, and protein.

Double Chocolate Bread Pudding

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 3 ½ cups low-fat (1%) milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 2 tbsp. hot water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 ounces dark chocolate (60% to 70% cocoa solids), coarsely chopped
  • ½ loaf whole-grain Italian or French bread (8 ounces), preferably day-old, cut into 1-inch cubes

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, egg whites and vanilla.

3. Place the cocoa powder and espresso into a small bowl, add the hot water, and stir to dissolve, then add to the egg-milk mixture. Add the sugar and whisk well until dissolved. Stir in the chocolate.

4. Place the prepared baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet and arrange the bread cubes evenly in the dish. Pour the egg-chocolate mixture evenly over the top, tilting the dish to make sure the liquid is distributed evenly among the bread cubes and there are no dry spots.

5. Allow to sit for 20 minutes for the bread to absorb some of the liquid. Bake until the top is browned and the inside is warmed through but is still moist, about 45 minutes.

Cheryl_Mussatto_pictureCheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian who works as an adjunct professor at Allen Community College, where she teaches a course called Basic Nutrition. She is also a certified health and wellness coach. She writes Eat Well to Be Well, a column about health and nutrition, and may be contacted at [email protected].

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