Dark Chocolate: Your Healthier Halloween Indulgence
Before you reach for those tempting leftover Halloween chocolates in the week ahead, there are some fantastic insights to share about chocolate. We're talking about DARK chocolate, not the milk chocolate that fills our favorite candy bars and likely stocked your trick-or-treat bowls. If you opt for dark chocolate, you're in for a heartwarming, brain-boosting, and mood-enhancing "treat."
The Heart-Healthy "Treat"
The secret to dark chocolate's health benefits lies in its main ingredient - cocoa. Numerous studies have shown that cocoa can reduce the risk of heart disease, including stroke and heart attacks. The flavanols in chocolate possess antioxidant properties that help reduce inflammation, a key factor in heart disease development. Furthermore, these flavanols have been linked to lower blood pressure and improved heart function.
Deciphering Chocolate Labels
Navigating the labeling on chocolate products can be perplexing. Chocolate is a result of a complex refining process that starts with the cacao beans from the tropical tree, Theobroma cacao. These beans go through fermentation, drying, roasting, and grinding to produce cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, or ground roasted cocoa beans.
The 65% Rule.
Here's the kicker: only dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 65% or higher provides you with the full benefits of flavanols. Milk and white chocolate, on the other hand, lack these healthy levels of flavanols and are usually loaded with fat, sugar, and calories.
Everything in Moderation
Moderation is key when it comes to enjoying dark chocolate. Your daily serving of dark chocolate (with over 65% cocoa) should be limited to 3 ounces (85 grams). So, don't give in to the temptation to devour an entire bar in one sitting – just savor a few squares of it.
The Health Perks of Dark Chocolate
Here are five reasons why dark chocolate is a fantastic choice:
Boosts Brain Function: Studies show that dark chocolate increases blood flow to the brain, enhancing cognitive function. The phenylethylamine (PEA) in dark chocolate boosts the release of endorphins, making you feel happier.
Blood Sugar Control: Dark chocolate's flavonoids help reduce insulin resistance, making your cells function efficiently and use insulin effectively. It also has a low glycemic index, preventing major blood sugar spikes.
Antioxidant Rich: Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants, which help eliminate free radicals from your body. These free radicals can cause oxidative stress, leading to various health issues.
Dental Health: The theobromine in dark chocolate has been shown to harden tooth enamel, reducing the risk of cavities.
Vitamins and Minerals: Dark chocolate is rich in vitamins and minerals, including copper and potassium (for stroke prevention), and iron and magnesium (to prevent anemia and type 2 diabetes).
This Halloween season, give in to your sweet cravings with a bit of decadence - just ensure it's dark chocolate in your hand. It's a choice that can satisfy your taste buds and benefit your health. And for an extra treat, consider pairing it with a deep, full-bodied red wine, like a French Bordeaux, which contains resveratrol - a heart-healthy bonus!
Thank you to one of my avid readers for bringing this to my attention.
Please make sure that your chocolate is safe - and read this recent consumer report re. cadmium, lead or both.
Here's how this happens: Read Here
- In health and happiness
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