#14) Chocolate: Food of the Gods

Yaakov Levine, NTP

The information provided in this article is intended to give a general overview of the topic and is not intended as medical advice. For information specific to your situation, or health concerns, please consult with your medical doctor.  

Nutritionally Speaking: Article #14,  Chocolate: Food of the Gods

At Natural Grocers in Eugene, in my role as Nutritional Health Coach I get to teach classes in our Demonstration Kitchen/Classroom. My favorite so far is a class titled, “Health by Chocolate”. This class is educational, flavorful, and experiential. We will be offering this class again, check our Eugene Natural Grocers “events” link on our website for our full class schedule. See below for a fun, and simple Fudge recipe.

Many modern historians have estimated that chocolate has been around for about 2000 years, but recent research suggests that it may be even older. Historians trace the origin of the word “chocolate” to the Aztec word “xocoatl,” which referred to a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans. The Latin name for the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, means “food of the gods.”

Of course, the cacao as it was originally enjoyed is much different than the processed chocolate now generally available. Many of the chocolate products we consume, such as the many artificially flavored and sweetened products are missing the mark when it comes to being a healthy treat. These products are missing the healthy components of dark chocolate and have been proven to contribute to ill health and disease.

Research has shown that there are important antioxidants in good quality chocolate, including resveratrol, which is also found in berries and grapes. Studies show that resveratrol can increase the health and lifespan of human cells, which could have a positive effect on our longevity.

Resveratrol’s benefits include protecting our cells from free radical damage, supporting healthy blood pressure levels, promoting healthy blood vessels, slowing the aging process and supporting our immune system. There are several forms of resveratrol, and studies indicate that some of the most beneficial forms are found in dark chocolate.

Only purchase dark chocolate that does not contain any milk, because the milk diminishes the antioxidants’ benefits. Many dark chocolate bars include artificial ingredients such as vanilla, which studies show to be a toxic ingredient to be avoided.

It is important to find chocolate products that are certified organic and sourced using “Fair Trade” methods. “Organic” chocolate’s benefits are obvious – it does not contain herbicide or pesticide residues. The Fair Trade or Fair for Life (look for the stamp) certification lets you know that the farmer was fairly compensated for the cacao beans they grew and harvested.

How much certified organic fair trade chocolate can be a healthy treat? Too much, and the sugar will negate any benefits.

Researchers in Italy found that a small amount of dark chocolate (6.7 grams) caused a decrease in inflammation, along with a reduction of 17 percent of C-reactive protein (CRP), a measure of arterial inflammation.

Based on their study, a healthy serving would be just one square of 73% Organic Dark Chocolate. Dark chocolate containing less than 70 percent cocoa typically has enough sugar to negate the health benefits, so choose carefully. I have found that the better quality dark chocolates taste great with minimal sugar, and I enjoy those products labeled 85% cacao, and since there is less sugar I can enjoy larger servings and still reap the benefits!

As winter continues enjoy your time with family and friends. Savor your dark chocolate treats in moderation and remember that Organic Fair Trade dark chocolate can be a great Heart Healthy choice as long as you do not overdo it.

Karen’s Incredible Edible Healing Coconut Fudge

Fudge that’s actually good for you? You better believe it!

Ingredients

6 Tablespoon coconut oil, softened
8 Ounce almond butter, room temperature (1 cup)
2 packets stevia (or 1/8th tsp white stevia powder)
1⁄4 Cup xylitol (optional; if you don’t use it, fudge will be less sweet)
1⁄2 Cup flaxseed meal
1 Tablespoon psyllium husk (optional; for extra fiber)
3 Tablespoon cocoa or carob powder (for less caffeine)
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1⁄2 Cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
1⁄2 container dehydrated raspberries (Just Tomatoes brand)

Instructions

In a medium bowl, mix coconut oil and almond butter. Then stir in the rest of the ingredients and mix until well combined. The batter will be sticky, and kind of clumpy. Pour into a glass baking dish lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate until solid.

Other options:

Best kept in the refrigerator. Try adding different mix-ins: roasted pecans instead of raspberries, cashew butter instead of almond butter, etc. Get creative!

This recipe was created by Karen Falbo, Education Program Manager for Natural Grocers.

For more information about the health benefits of chocolate, you can always contact me at nutritionallyspeaking@gmail.com or (541) 895-2427 or reach me at Natural Grocers @ (541) 345-3300.

Yaakov Levine, NTP