Chocolate is healthy!
Chocolate’s sweet decadence is one of life’s greatest pleasures. But does it fit into your healthy lifestyle? It’s no health food, but scientific research does back up your need to indulge once in a while. Just remember: the darker, the better. Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, contains antioxidants and flavonoids that have been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, chocolate has more antioxidants than spinach, blueberries or even prunes, and 40 g of dark chocolate offers as many antioxidants as 150 ml of red wine. In addition, oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil, makes up about one-third of the fat in chocolate and has been shown to benefit heart health.
Britons eat 10 kg of chocolate per person each year!
Several substances in chocolate set off chemical reactions in your body. For one, chocolate contains a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which acts as an antidepressant. Others – including theobromine, caffeine and phenylethylamine – have a stimulating effect.
Memory experts say that consuming a little of the right kind of chocolate daily may improve recall ability. Scientists suspect that compounds in dark chocolate called procyanidins counteract two conditions that age the brain: oxidation and inflammation. Procyanidins are thought to improve memory by increasing blood circulation to the brain, which relaxes the blood vessels, increasing supplies of oxygen and nutrients that are essential to proper brain function.
FOOD FOR THE GODS
Chocolate is made from the beans of the cacao tree (its botanical name, theobroma, means food for the gods). The raw cocoa bean is fermented, roasted, shelled and ground to produce raw cocoa mass to which sugar and cocoa butter are added to make chocolate.
It takes about 400 cocoa beans to make 450 g of chocolate.
Chocoholics are faced with a dizzying array of choices. There’s bittersweet or semisweet (also known as dark), milk and white chocolate. Whatever your preference, make a point of selecting a higher-grade chocolate and stay away from cheap versions that contain little or no cocoa. The higher-quality chocolates list the percentage of raw cocoa that’s present, as well as the amount of cocoa butter. Dark chocolates generally contain higher percentage of cocoa – 50%-87% – than milk chocolates, and dark chocolates typically have lower fat and sugar content, making them a better nutritional choice.
But chocolate isn’t just for dessert any more. For a unique way to incorporate chocolate into your diet, try the recipe below:
TURKEY WITH MOLE SAUCE
Make four servings,
3 Tbsp. olive or macadamia-nut oil
480 g chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp. coriander
3 Tbsp. chilli powder
¾ tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 Tbsp. peanut butter
1 tin chopped tomatoes
4 Tbsp. chopped bittersweet chocolate
500 ml low-sodium chicken stock
2 Tbsp. chopped almonds (or pumpkin seeds)
4 turkey breasts, boneless and skinless, 120 g each
Non-stick cooking spray
COOK: Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook 3-4 minutes, until tender. Stir in coriander, chilli powder, cinnamon, cloves and peanut butter. Cook two more minutes. Add tomatoes, chocolate, chicken stock and almonds. Stir to mix all ingredients. Allow sauce to simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C Gas mark 4. Place turkey breasts in a casserole dish coated with cooking spray. Pour sauce over turkey and place in oven. Cook 15-20 minutes or until turkey is done.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): 455 calories, 36 g protein, 33 g carbohydrate, 21 g fat, 7 g fibre