Go Ahead… Indulge with Chocolate on Valentine’s Day!!!

Valentine’s Day on February 14th is fast approaching and for many this is a time associated with love and… chocolate!!! While many men give gifts of chocolate as symbols of their love, the recipient of the “love” is often left feeling guilty eating it since she is led to believe that if she eats it, it will make her gain weight or cause her face to break out (and if she does not then she feels guilty again). Nothing could be further from the truth! Not only is chocolate not bad for you, but it is actually good for you. If you make sure that you are eating a high-quality chocolate and also watch the quantity you eat, you can enjoy your chocolate anytime guilt-free, especially on Valentine’s Day!

When you are eating chocolate it is very important to make sure that you eat at least 60% pure dark chocolate and lay off the chocolates stuffed with caramel or the milk chocolates laden with milk fats and sugars! 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, 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! If you are an exhausted working mom like me, it is a great pick me up in the afternoon and healthier alternative to a Starbuck’s latte!

In order to understand what chocolate to buy, it is helpful to know how is it 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 tons of added sugars, as well as cocoa butter and milk fats. 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?
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 60% or more and are free of added sugars, saturated fats and other artificial ingredients.

My favorites are Green and Black, Dagobaand my absolute favorite is a raw chocolate bar called Raw Chocolate Love bars. Experiment and see which brand you like best! I also love to make hot chocolate on cold afternoons and have included my recipe below. 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!

Lastly, a word of advice. Watch not only the quality you buy but also the quantity! You can have too much of a good thing! An un-named man in my household keeps dark chocolate in the breadbox, which he nibbles on everytime he passes it. If you have a box of chocolates just once a year at Valentine’s Day, then just go for it! But, if you routinely keep chocolate in the house and eat it regularly, then decide how much you will have per day and when you do eat it put it on a plate, sit down and enjoy it without guilt! You will find that you are oh, so much more satisfied with it that way anyway!

Healthy Hot Chocolate
2 cups vanilla almond milk
2 tbsps unsweetened dark chocolate powder (or, even better, raw cacoa powder)
1 tbsp agave nectar (or more or less depending on how sweet you want it)

If you have a Vitamix blender , then it is beyond easy to stick all of the ingredients in the blender and turn it on and voila! Vitamix blenders will literally heat up the mixture and make your hot chocolate for you. If you don’t, just put the almond milk and chocolate powder in a sauce pan and stir. I like to add in the agave at the last minute so you don’t literally cook it. If it does not seem to want to mix, then put it in a regular blender for a bit and back into the sauce pan.

“Double Trouble” Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

1 cup unsweetened chocolate or cocoa powder
3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
½-¾ cup agave nectar
2 tbsps 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

  • troy
    July 30th, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    .

    tnx for info….



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