February is a natural time to talk about love. Isn’t it best when we start with a healthy heart? And add chocolate?
hot cocoa with hearts photo by dan taylor
There are good but preliminary scientific studies that show the cardiovascular benefits of cocoa and dark chocolate. The studies have serious sounding names.
For example, Effects of Low Habitual Cocoa Intake on Blood Pressure and Bioactive Nitric Oxide. Or Acute Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Ingestion and Endothelial Function. In everyday language, the say that a small serving of cocoa or dark chocolate lowers high blood pressure.
And there are reports of either no effect, or an improvement on total, HDL, and LDL cholesterols. (Don’t stop taking your medications though).
One ounce of cocoa is a very good source of fiber (yeah), iron (double yeah), magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese.
A 1-1/2 ounce serving of dark chocolate offers similar amounts of antioxidants as a serving of green tea, red wine, or blueberries.
Both cocoa and dark chocolate are very low in sodium and have no naturally occurring cholesterol. It truly is happy heart health food.
The most nutritious choice is natural cocoa powder. Nothing is added to it. Dutched cocoa is a reasonable second choice for cocoa, it has been treated with alkali. It has lighter color, milder flavor, fewer antioxidants, and mixes with liquids more easily.
When choosing chocolate, choose dark, the darker the better. Look for at least 65% cacao. The higher the percentage of cacao, the lower the amount of added sugar. Sugar reduces the cardiovascular benefits.
And white chocolate? Pfff! It lacks the nutrition and flavor of dark chocolate, so does not even count as chocolate to me.
Add five minutes of happiness to each day.
Pop a small piece of fine dark chocolate in your mouth. Close your eyes. Savor the silky texture and deep flavor as it slowly melts on your tongue. Quietly say “mmmmm.”
Or try some tasty ways to add cocoa to your day.
- Toss gluten-free breakfast cereal with a spoonful of natural cocoa before adding the milk.
- Make a smoothie. Cocoa with raspberries, strawberries, bananas or peanut butter are classic combinations.
- Add a tablespoon to a recipe of chili, sloppy Joes, or BBQ.
- Revive your afternoon with a steaming mug of hot cocoa, made from scratch. Put 1-2 tablespoons of cocoa, a tablespoon of sweetener, and a tablespoon of milk (any kind) in a mug. Stir until the cocoa dissolves. Fill the mug with milk and microwave for 1-2 minutes.
- Add some to a gluten-free spice rub and use it on pork tenderloin or chicken with the skin. Roast meat at 400-degrees until it is tender inside with a dark, flavorful coating.
photo by procsilas
Or make a treat.
I eat chocolate in some form everyday. Usually just as plain dark chocolate, that “mmmm” thing. But I consider cocoa and chocolate as noble ingredients. And sometimes you want something a bit more special. Here are some suggestions.
And just to be careful, how to determine if your chocolate is gluten free. Does this have gluten in it?
What is you favorite way to enjoy cocoa? Chocolate?