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One of my favorite things to do is make treats. There is something I just love about having sexy little morsels of food around that is healthy. A big bowl of berries or cut up veggie platter with delicious dips is right up my alley. But at the top of that alley....well next to a Vegan Donut....is chocolate!
There was a time where I would only eat milk chocolate...you know...the Areo Bar...yeah that kind of chocolate.
But now my taste buds have matured, along with my knowledge of ingredients, and no I will not eat an Areo Bar any more.
Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients that positively affect our health.
Made from the seed of the cocoa tree, it is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet.
Studies show that dark chocolate (not the sugary crap) can improve health and lower the risk of heart disease.
A 100 gram bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa contains (1):
Dark Chocolate May Improve Blood Flow and Lower Blood Pressure
The flavanols in dark chocolate can stimulate the endothelium, the lining of arteries, to produce Nitric Oxide (NO), which is a gas (3).
One of the functions of NO is to send signals to the arteries to relax, which lowers resistance to blood flow and therefore reduces blood pressure.
There are many controlled trials showing that cocoa and dark chocolate can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure, but the effects are usually mild (4, 5, 6, 7).
However, there is also one study in people with elevated blood pressure that showed no effect, so take all this with a grain of salt (8).
Dark Chocolate Raises HDL and Protects LDL Against Oxidation
Consuming dark chocolate can improve several important risk factors for heart disease.
In a controlled trial, cocoa powder was found to significantly decrease oxidized LDL cholesterol in men.
It also increased HDL and lowered total LDL in men with elevated cholesterol (9).
Oxidized LDL means that the LDL (“bad” cholesterol) has reacted with free radicals.
This makes the LDL particle itself reactive and capable of damaging other tissues… such as the lining of the arteries in your heart.
It makes perfect sense that cocoa lowers oxidized LDL. It contains an abundance of powerful antioxidants that do make it into the bloodstream and protect lipoproteins against oxidative damage (10, 11, 12).
Dark chocolate can also reduce insulin resistance, which is another common risk factor for many diseases like heart disease and diabetes (13, 14).
Bottom Line: Dark chocolate improves several important risk factors for disease. It lowers the susceptibility of LDL to oxidative damage while increasing HDL and improving insulin sensitivity.
Take Home Message
There is considerable evidence that cocoa can provide powerful health benefits, being especially protective against cardiovascular disease.
But of course, this doesn’t mean people should go all out and consume lots of chocolate every day. It is still loaded with calories and easy to overeat on. Maybe have a square or two after dinner and try to really savor them.
Be aware that a lot of the chocolate on the market is crap. You need to choose quality stuff… organic, dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content.
Dark chocolates often contain some sugar, but the amounts are usually small and the darker the chocolate, the less sugar it will contain.
There are of course other benefits to chocolate that I have not mentioned… such as the awesome taste.
Golden Mylk Chocolate
Makes 12 Chocolates
3 bars of Endangered Species Chocolate bars
2 Tbsp coconut oil
Melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a double boiler over simmering water.
When melted, pour enough chocolate to cover the bottom of mini muffin cups or the Epicure Mold I used can be found here
The remaining chocolate will be the topping
1/4 cup cashew butter or for nut free use sunflower butter
1/2 tsp tumeric (anti-imflammatory)
1/4 tsp cinnamon (helps with digestion)
1/4 tsp vanilla
Mix all this together while you wait for the bottoms of the chocolates to set up.
Once the chocolate is set, spoon in about 1/4 tsp of Golden Mylk Filling on the set chocolate. smooth out a bit. Then pour the remaining chocolate over the top and let set.
If you try these, please let me know what you think!!
Certified Holistic Nutrition and Wellbeing Counselor