Fall in Love With Chocolate

by in Healthy Holidays, Healthy Tips, February 10, 2009

chocolate
There aren’t many things better than chocolate — though it’s a high-calorie sweet, a little bit here and there can be a healthy indulgence. To get you in the mood for Valentine’s Day, here are some basic facts and, of course, irresistible recipes.

Cacao to Chocolate
Originally grown by the Aztecs 2,000 years ago, pods of the cacao (pronounced “kah-KOW”) tree are mashed into a paste to make this world-renowned confection. There are actually many steps to get from the cocoa bean to a delicious chocolate treat. Beans are usually roasted to enhance their flavor, cracked, ground and pressed into a thick substance called “chocolate liquor,” which contains cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Think of cocoa butter as the natural fat of the cacao bean -– it gives chocolate that melt-in-your-mouth quality. In some cases, chocolate makers remove remove cocoa butter and grind pure cocoa solids into cocoa powder — great for smoothies or hot chocolate.

Flavors
Special combinations of chocolate liquor, cocoa solids, milk, sugar and cocoa butter join to create all those lovely chocolate varieties. Milk chocolate is at least 10% chocolate liquor and 12% whole milk, the Bittersweet kind is 35% liquor –- different manufacturers add varying amounts of sugar and cocoa butter to create their signature flavors. White chocolate is simply cocoa butter, sugar and flavoring. Some die hard chocolate lovers refuse to accept it as chocolate since it contains none of the prized cocoa solids.

Think you’re a choco-wiz? Take the Chocolate Challenge.

Healthy Hype
Cocoa beans contain oodles of vitamins and minerals including vitamin A and E, B vitamins, calcium, iron and potassium –- there is a nutrient to benefit just about every part of your body. Cocoa is also packed with numerous antioxidants (more than green tea or red wine). Theobromine is a powerful antioxidant; it’s good for reducing inflammation and lowering blood pressure but bad for pets (this is the substance in chocolate that is toxic to dogs and cats). The cocoa butter alone also contains unique antioxidants as well as some heart healthy, unsaturated fat.

It’s important to recognize that COCOA contains all these fabulous nutrients, which is why eating pounds of CHOCOLATE (also rich in sugar, milk and, therefore, calories and fat) can lead to weight gain. While you may not be able to justify eating pounds of the stuff, enjoying it in moderation can be good for you. Dark chocolate varieties contain more cocoa, which means more nutrients. When it comes to calories and fat, they are about the same. An ounce of milk or dark chocolate has about 150 calories and 9 grams of fat.

Special Powers
As for calling chocolate an aphrodisiac, there’s not a large amount of scientific proof, but it does contain a bit of phenylethylamine, a substance linked to feelings of happiness or love. I say go with it!

Ways to Enjoy
However you prefer to drizzle or nibble, you can’t really go wrong. Cookies and cake are obvious choices. Fruit dipped in chocolate gives you the best of both worlds. Make your own chocolate candies with any combination of nuts and dried fruit. Sip on a cup of warm chocolate kissed with cinnamon. Enhance the flavor of chocolate by adding coffee (a tip from Ina Garten).

Chocolate doesn’t have to be for dessert. Cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate work well in chili and other sauces (like Mole sauce) to add richness and depth of flavor.

More posts from .

Similar Posts

10 Health Foods We’re All Saying the Wrong Way (Kefir, Anyone?)

It’s a cruel fact: Many of the foods that are potentially good for us also have names seemingly designed to trip us up. Who among us did not hav...

Comments (21)

  1. Greta says:

    I found a mexican chocolate cookie recipe on Food Network and I love it! It’s a real surprise hit.

  2. ilisa says:

    probably a rookie question, but can nut butter be purchased in any grocery store? looks/sounds delicious and would be a wonderful substitute for peanut butter!

  3. Chris says:

    Yes nut butter can be purchased at the grocers, usually it is in the health food section but may also be in the gourmet food section, while it is wonderful it can be expensive.

  4. Toby Amidor says:

    I buy my soynut butter at Trader Joe’s which is cheaper than gourmet or health food stores. Definitely check it out if there’s one in your area.

  5. Dana White says:

    Trader Joe's and health food stores have a variety of nut butters, some large grocery stores carry them too :)

  6. What is the name and recipe of the picture ou have here? It looks “to die for”!!!! Please share!

  7. Kristine Brabson says:

    If you click on the picture it links you to the recipe. It’s also listed at the end of the post: Chocolate & Nut Butter Bites.

  8. Cindy says:

    click on the picture twice and it will bring up the recipe

  9. Kathy Ellenberger says:

    I like dark chocolate and am diabetic. I use unsweetened chocolate and my new discovery sweetener – NuStevia.

  10. Thanks so much. Where do you buy the butters?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>