Chocolate Diet Wrecker or Nature’s Miracle Food?

(written for www.thefamilygroove.com)

Valentine’s Day is coming up and on February 14th many of us will receive a box full of chocolates from our loved ones. Although this gift will be a symbol of their love, many of us will have the conflicted feelings of “oh, yummy” and “oh, no, how will I be able to resist.” We may feel guilty about eating chocolate because we have been told that it will make us gain weight or cause our face to break out.

Feel guilty no more! Pure dark chocolate is nature’s miracle food. Chocolate contains the photonutrients flavonol and polyphenol that are natural antioxidants, the alkaloids theobromine, phenethylamine and anandamide, and is rich in magnesium. Chocolate can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes and dementia, balance brain chemistry, help build strong bones, help prevent cancerous activity and, last but not least, help with weight loss. On top of all that, it contains and has been linked to higher levels of the mood-altering serotonin. Chocolate is a natural aphrodisiac and boosts our mood and energy! And, in this economy, we all need more of that! Instead of “oh, no” we should be saying “oh, yes!”

So, how is chocolate made?
Chocolate is made from the seeds of the Theobroma Cacao tree. “Theobroma,” by the way, means “food of the gods!” After the seeds of the Cacao are picked, they are fermented, dried, roasted and the shell removed to form cocoa nibs. These nibs are then processed in a complex process involving grinding, heating, liquefying and blending to form a chocolate liquor, which can be further processed to form solid cocoa or cocoa butter.

Pure, unsweetened chocolate contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions. Most chocolate produced today has added sugar. Milk chocolate is chocolate that has added sugar as well as milk powder or condensed milk. White chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk but no cocoa solids and is not considered to be true chocolate.The quality of the chocolate produced depends not only on the quality of the cocoa nibs but also on the ingredients used when processing the nibs into chocolate and, of course, the artisan creating the chocolate.

Where does chocolate come from?
The Olmec Indians are believed to be the first to grow cocoa beans as a domestic crop in 400 A.D. and the Mayans who migrated into northern regions of South America began establishing the earliest known cocoa plantations in the Yucatan in 600 A.D. A chocolate beverage called xocolātl, meaning “bitter water,” was popular with the Aztecs, and in the 16th Century Spanish explorers brought it to Europe. Much like the Aztecs and even the Mayans before them, the Spaniards began to add cane sugar and flavorings such as vanilla to sweeten their cocoa beverages to form what we know today as “hot chocolate.” In 1657, the first chocolate shop opened in London and chocolate became a fashionable drink. Chocolate was first manufactured in the United States in 1765 at Milton Lower Mills, near Dorchester, Massachusetts. And, in Switzerland in 1876, M. D. Peter of Vevey, perfected a process of making milk chocolate by combining the cocoa nib, sugar, fat, and condensed milk and the modern day chocolate that we know today was born!

Although fine chocolate is made all over the world today in countries such as France and England, the United States has the world’s largest chocolate-manufacturing industry.Chocolate has become a multi-million dollar industry in the United States. Only 20% of the chocolate out there, however, is pure. Most chocolate consumed in the United States is highly-processed and has added ingredients such as refined sugar, artificial flavors and cheap high cholesterol polyunsaturated fats and hydrogenated oils resulting in an unnatural product that is high in fat and calories virtually devoid of nutritional value.

What do you look for when you are buying chocolate?
All chocolate is not created equal! Before you reach for that Hershey’s milk chocolate bar take a look at the label. Milk chocolate contains lots of sugar and dairy and, as discussed above, many commercial brands are just candy disguised as chocolate! Look for bars that have a chocolate content of 70% or more and are free of added sugars, saturated fats and other artificial ingredients.

My favorites are Green and Black, Dagoba and my absolute favorite is a raw chocolate bar called Raw Chocolate Love bars. Experiment and see which brand you like best!

We are all chocoholics in our family and below are some of our favorite recipes. Not only are they packed with delicious chocolate, but they are nutritious too!

Chocolate Tofu Brownies

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Raw or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 1/3 cups whole wheat or all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp olive or canola oil
¾ cup light or dark sugar
1 package silken tofu (I like Mori-Nu)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Optional: chopped walnuts
Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, place all of the ingredients and process until smoothly blended. At this point you can add unsweetened chocolate chips or walnuts and blend in with a spoon. Coat a 8×8 baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and pour mixture into it. Bake for 20-25 minutes until brownies pull away from the sides. Let cool for 15 minutes, cut into slices and enjoy!

“Double Trouble” Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

1 cup unsweetened chocolate or cocoa powder
3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
½-¾ cup agave nectar
2 tbsp coconut butter (coconut oil)
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp sea salt

Combine 1 cup of the chocolate powder and 2 cups of the coconut in a mixing bowl then add the coconut butter, agave nectar, vanilla and sea salt and mix well. Scoop balls of the mixture out with your hands and roll into balls. Place shredded coconut on a place and roll balls in it to cover. These make a delicious and nutritious pick me up in the afternoon or an after-school treat for your children.

1 Comment

  • George
    July 31st, 2014 at 5:57 am

    .

    ñïàñèáî çà èíôó!!…



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