Chocolate. It tastes fabulous, makes us feel good and at times can cure a broken heart. Not only is it rich, creamy and delightful, but it turns out that it’s also a nutritional powerhouse if you choose your chocolate wisely.
Chocolate originates from ridged pods about the size of a melon from a lovely tropical tree called Theobroma cacao. The pods contain seeds that we call beans. The seeds are fermented and dried to be turned into forms of chocolate. Sometimes the beans are roasted to give the chocolate different types of flavors, just like a fine wine placed in a different oak barrel to enhance a particular flavor. At this point, it can be processed in many different ways, including powders, liquor and bars, but raw cocoa solids are one of the richest and best sources of flavanol antioxidants — and good for you.
There are many different options of chocolate to choose from. When choosing chocolate, the darker the better. Cacao has a natural bitter taste, so manufacturers will add butter, sugar and milk to sweeten the deal. Milk chocolate may be sweet to your taste buds, but it’s not the best choice, as it contains large quantities of sugar and is typically low in nutrient value. Love white chocolate? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it does not actually contain chocolate. The main ingredient in white chocolate is cocoa butter which is a pale yellow vegetable fat that comes from a cacao bean, but isn’t actually chocolate.
Dark chocolate contains higher concentrations of cacao, which means more antioxidants and polyphenols. These have the ability to stop free radical oxidation, which may decrease the risk for Alzheimer’s, heart disease and cancer. Aim for 70 percent cacao content or higher, and you’ll be reaping all the health and anti-inflammatory benefits. Now you can feel good about eating — or drinking — quality, dark chocolate.
Healthier Hot Chocolate
- 3 tablespoons organic Balinese cold-pressed cacao powder
- 8 ounces hot water
- 1 packet sweet leaf natural Stevia sweetener
- ¼ cup Living Harvest vanilla hemp milk
- Bring 8 ounces of water to a boil in tea kettle.
- Add 3 tablespoons cacao powder and Stevia to cup.
- Pour water and stir frequently.
- Top with vanilla hemp milk to taste (if desired).
South Sound nutritional therapy practitioner Breanne Rice loves that good nutrition can involve chocolate. Read more.