Warning: Chocolate may have health benefits
by Stan Kalson —
The holidays have come and gone, and many of us are making resolutions to eat healthier. So what’s a chocolate lover to do? For so many years, chocolate was not considered a particularly healthy food.
Suddenly, scientists are finding that chocolate may benefit us. For centuries, chocolate has been used to treat diseases and maladies, including depression. Civilizations from Mexico to Europe have hailed chocolate as an aphrodisiac. The U.S. government officially recognized its virtues during World War II, making the chocolate candy bar standard issue for the military.
Chocolate’s scientific name, theobroma cacao, is literally translated as “food of the gods.” Chocolate cravers don’t need studies to tell them about chocolate’s power to alter moods. The feel-good chemicals have long been associated with feelings of love, safety and comfort.
Yes, it is true, chocolate, which is high in cocoa solids (60 to 70 percent or more) is now recognized as having many beneficial health qualities.
- Chocolate contains essential trace elements and nutrients such as iron, calcium and potassium, and vitamins A, B1, C, D and E.
- Chocolate has the highest natural source of magnesium, which is beneficial for the cardiovascular system and is an antidote to hypertension. Magnesium deficiency is linked with hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, joint problems and pre-menstrual tension (PMT or PMS).
- Chocolate lowers progesterone levels, responsible for the mood swings familiar to many women on a monthly basis. The addition of magnesium to a sufferer’s diet has been proven to increase premenstrual progesterone levels, helping alleviate the problem.
Which is the healthiest chocolate?
Plain dark chocolate products containing a minimum of 70 percent or more cocoa solids are the healthiest and best way to satisfy a craving for chocolate, without consuming too much sugar and saturated fat.
Do not choose cheap, brand-name chocolate products, as they are low in chocolate solids (less than 20 percent; some containing less than 7 percent). The cheap brands are also high in sugar content, saturated fats and other unhealthy substances and, consequently, can contribute to problems for your teeth and health.
However, according to researchers, even those creamy chocolate confections may actually help us live longer. Harvard researchers tracked nearly 8,000 males, with an average age of 65. Those men who enjoyed chocolate and candy lived almost a year longer than those who did not. Those who ate one to three candy bars per month had a 36 percent lower risk of death (compared to the people who ate no candy), while those who ate three or more candy bars per week had a 16 percent lower risk.
Why? The researchers say it might have something to do with antioxidants. Chocolate contains the same antioxidant chemicals as wine (phenols). In the chocolate bar, phenols help preserve the fat. In our bodies, phenol can help prevent atherosclerosis.
Like anything, chocolate is best enjoyed in moderation. Just one ounce of solid chocolate packs about 150 calories and can contain as much as 50 percent fat.
Here are a few chocolate recipes to try:
Non-Dairy Chocolate Cake
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
- 1 cup rice or soy milk
- 1/4 cup granulated fructose or sugar cane juice
- 2/3 cup canola or safflower oil
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a 10” cake pan. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat just until blended. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool and serve.
Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
- 1 cup safflower oil
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup sugar cane juice
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 (12 oz.) pkg. non-sweetened dark chocolate chips
- 2 cups oatmeal
Cream together oil, brown sugar and sugar cane juice. Add eggs and vanilla, and mix together. Add whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda and sea salt, and mix. Stir in chocolate chips and oatmeal; drop by rounded teaspoon onto a greased cookie pan. Bake at 375 degrees for nine to 10 minutes.
Stan Kalson has been active in the Greater Phoenix holistic community for 27 years. 602-287-0605.
Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 23, Number 1, February/March 2005.