Surprising health benefits of chocolate (plus a recipe) | Brain Health, Exercise, Healthy Living and more | Holistic Blends Holistic Blends Blog blog

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Surprising health benefits of chocolate (plus a recipe)

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

It’s a day known for romance, flowers, and…

Chocolate!

Now, many people have a love/hate relationship with chocolate in that they love it, but hate the fact that it can pack the pounds on you.

Well, here’s the thing—when you have a regular diet of wholesome real foods (and stay away from junk and fast foods), you CAN enjoy an occasional sweet treat like chocolate and not pay the price!

Plus strict avoidance of any food is only going to increase your craving and desire for it!  So for instance, if you want to lose weight and “swear off chocolate forever,” trust me, you will even dream about chocolate and when you do break down and have some, you will probably eat way too much.

A healthy diet and occasional treats in moderation is the way to go, my friend.

And chocolate is one of the best choices because---it even benefits your health!

Here’s how.

Surprising health benefits of chocolate

Chocolate contains powerful antioxidants, the most significant of which is a flavanol called epicatechin. Flavanols are plant compounds that fight inflammation and protect against cell damage caused by free radicals.

There is a catch, however—the chocolate has to be dark.  Dark chocolate is typically rich in epicatechin, and the higher the cocoa content the better. 

Not so for milk chocolate which contains far less cocoa than dark, and white chocolate which contains absolutely none.

Here are some ways that chocolate’s epicatechin and other antioxidants enhance your health:

Improved exercise endurance

Epicatechin prompts cells that line your blood vessels to release extra nitric oxide.  Nitric oxide helps widen your veins and arteries (vasodilation) which in turn improves blood flow and cardiac function—both factors that are crucial to physical activity.

Nitric oxide also triggers your muscle cells to absorb more blood sugar (providing them with more energy) and promotes the passage of needed oxygen into your cells.

Improved brain function

Studies have shown that cocoa flavanols may help reduce cognitive decline as people age. Researchers believe this is because flavanols improve blood flow to the brain.

In one study, researchers gave drinks with cocoa flavanols to two groups of adults—one group received about 681 mg of flavanols and the other only 4 mg.  The group that received the higher flavanol count scored higher on cognitive tests and correctly solved problems quicker.

In addition, dark chocolate flavanols help support better reaction time, visual-spatial awareness and stronger memory.

Reduced harmful effects of stress

Research has shown that people who eat dark chocolate report feeling less stressed and it’s not just all in their heads--researchers confirmed that the chocolate eaters had reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Chronically elevated levels of cortisol can lead to depressed immune function, low thyroid function and problems with blood sugar control (increasing your risk of Type 2 diabetes), among other things.

Supports heart health

The antioxidants in dark chocolate have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of clotting and increase blood circulation to the heart, thus lowering the risks of stroke, coronary heart disease and death from heart disease.

Prevents diabetes

In addition to being associated with lower cortisol levels (and therefore a reduced risk of diabetes like I mentioned above), epicatechin helps the body’s cells to use insulin better, which helps prevent or combat diabetes.

Immune support

Dark chocolate is also known as a prebiotic food.

Prebiotics are nourishment for your probiotics—your population of friendly gut inhabitants. 

Keeping your microbiome healthy and nourished is crucial because 80 percent of your immune system resides in your gut—so the healthier your gut population is, the stronger your immune function will be. 

Remember that your immune system doesn’t just protect you against bugs and viruses—it also fights cancer!

Note that our top-selling Super Shield multi-strain probiotic formula also contains prebiotics to help support the health of your microbiome population! 

Have a love/love relationship with chocolate

The lesson for today is that you CAN have a love/love relationship with chocolate!

Just remember to have an overall healthy diet, enjoy chocolate as an occasional treat, and make sure it’s dark!

Now, if weight loss is your concern, I can help you with that too!

My Want To Lost Weight? Stop Dieting? program shows you how to enjoy delicious, nutritious foods that you will love, as well as how to improve your digestion, overcome barriers to your weight loss success, and even helps you choose an exercise activity that is right for you.

And the recipe book is loaded with scrumptious recipes, including desserts!

Here is a sample of one of the recipes—a delicious chocolate dessert that’s perfect for Valentine’s Day, plus it’s gluten-free:

Flourless Chocolate Torte                                                                          

Serves: 6-8

4-1 oz. squares semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder, plus additional for dusting pan
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Preheat oven to 300°. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan, and dust lightly with extra cocoa powder.

In the top of a double boiler over lightly simmering water, melt chopped chocolate and butter. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, cocoa powder, eggs, and vanilla. Pour mixture into previously prepared pan.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Let the torte cool in pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve topped with whipped cream.

To your health and Happy Valentine’s Day,

Sherry Brescia


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