"Only high-quality diary-free dark chocolate has significant health benefits (improving blood flow, reducing cholesterol, and helping to prevent cell damage). Most chocolate, though, contains milk (even most dark chocolate), which blocks your body's absorption of its antioxidants. A few times a week you can treat yourself to an ounce or so of top-shelf diary-free chocolate (check the label) that has a cacao content of 70 percent or higher. As for chocolate containing milk, cross it off your list."
Thoughts of chocolate still bring me back to a couple childhood memories. My dad ate more sweets than anyone I have ever met so when it came time for 'a chocolate holiday' he expressed it through the philosophy "bigger is better". Easter time for my siblings and self, was made up of baskets full of every type of candy known to man. And, although we loved our sponge candy, twizzlers, jelly beans, candy lipstick, and all the other offerings, it was the chocolate I remember most! We got it all - white, orange and milk (I don't remember dark chocolate being a front runner). The chocolate was unforgettable - it was solid and following his "bigger is better" theory - huge! One bunny being a solid chocolate feast at least 42 inches high. Then there was February 14th, Valentine's Day. We received THE LARGEST BOX of variety chocolates I've ever seen. Thus, my love for a good tasting (but, bad for you) bon bon (is that even still a word?)! Even to this day I prefer chocolate with a decadent filling over any other chocolate item. What about you? Do you have a favorite chocolate memory? If you do, I bet you are smiling to yourself right now. That's what chocolate does - makes a connection to our emotional side.
Seriously, can you relate? --------->
So, let's talk about the chocolate that is good for you. Dark. Chocolate. I think most experts on the subject would recommend at least 70% cacao, but agree that 85% is ideal! These chocolates have less sugar and no dairy. Straight up 100% chocolate without sugar added would taste very bitter and undesirable. The higher percentage of cacao means its' been processed less which equals more antioxidants. I like bars that don't contain soy lecithin, although it's a personal thing and not the end of the world when used as a last ingredient. Lecithins fall into the emulsifying category which helps to keep the chocolate together. My favorite as a child was white chocolate which is really not a chocolate, but more of a sugary confection treat. It contains very little cocoa solids.
Dark chocolate has the most flavonoids ("a group of plant metabolites thought to provide health benefits through cell signaling pathways and antioxidant effects") of any of its' healthy friends like cherries, apples, wine and other food items. According to a study done by Harvard Medical Research, it has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity which is good for lowering your risk of diabetes, and it can cause dilation of blood vessels along with many other cardiovascular benefits. The research is still inconclusive, but promising. Much of it leans towards the recommendation of eating one small square of the good stuff a day. I think it's important to mention that although something can be good for you, we are all different and some of us may be affected more negatively in the waistline than others by following this advice.
Chocolate has a long history in society going back as far as Maya and Aztec populations, but today West African nations produce 75% of the world's cacao. There are still areas that have forced labor, and child labor conditions that are reprehensible.
Dark chocolate is slowly taking its' place next to wine, a good scotch and other things that we savor. Next time you take a bite close your eyes and let it melt in your mouth. It's much more enjoyable that way - so say I!
Next month I will show you how easy it is to make your own homemade chocolate!