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Posts tagged ‘Chocolate’

9 Health Benefits of Chocolate

Chocolate isn’t junk food anymore! Here, the health perks of your new favorite superfood

Here, 9 sweet health benefits of chocolate.

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Why You Should Eat Chocolate

Superfoods don’t just come from your supermarket’s produce aisle. In fact those chocolate candy bars next to the gummy bears now qualify. Study after study proves that dark chocolate—sweet, rich, and delicious—is good for more than curing a broken heart.

The secret behind its powerful punch is cacao, also the source of the sweet’s distinct taste. Packed with healthy chemicals like flavonoids and theobromine, this little bean is a disease-killing bullet. The only problem? Cacao on its own is bitter, chalky, nasty stuff.

Enter milk, sugar, and butter—good for your taste buds, not always good for your health. Besides adding calories, these can dilute the benefits of cacao. So snack smart: Stick to healthy chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao (or cocoa, which is cacao in its roasted, ground form). As long as the content is that high, says Mary Engler, Ph.D., a professor of physiological nursing at the University of California at San Francisco, you can reap the benefits from eating only small amounts. Because of its high fat and sugar content, limit yourself to 7 ounces, or about four dark chocolate bars, a week.

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A Healthier Heart

The latest research backs up claims that chocolate has cardiovascular benefits: In a 9-year Swedish study of more than 31,000 women, those who ate one or two servings of dark chocolate each week cut their risk for heart failure by as much as a third.

Wish that was a serving each day? Another big, long-term study in Germany this year found that about a square of dark chocolate a day lowered blood pressure and reduced risk of heart attack and stroke by 39 percent. Most of the credit goes to flavonoids, antioxidant compounds that increase the flexibility of veins and arteries.

But since those antioxidants come with a generous portion of sugar, milk, and butter, chowing down on chocolate isn’t an excuse to skip your workout. Chocolate and exercise actually work surprisingly well together: Another recent study, out of Australia this time, showed that eating chocolate high in healthy antioxidants reduced the blood pressure-raising effects of exercise on overweight individuals. So go ahead and reward yourself. A chocolate bar has five times the flavonoids of an apple, after all.

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Weight Loss

If you’re wondering how you can add dark chocolate to your diet plan without putting on pounds, the good news is that it should be easier than you expect.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that dark chocolate is far more filling, offering more of a feeling of satiety than its lighter-colored sibling. That is, dark chocolate lessens cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods. So if indulging in a bit of healthy dark chocolate should not only make it easy for you to stick to the small portion recommended for optimal health, but it should make it easier for you to stick to your diet in general. Jackpot!

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Happier Kids

Women who ate chocolate daily during their pregnancy reported that they were better able to handle stress than mothers-to-be who abstained. Also, a Finnish study found their babies were happier and smiled more. Hmm, so your options are popping a piece of premium chocolate or sticking a pacifier in your screaming baby’s mouth?

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Diabetes Prevention

Candy as a diabetes foe? Sure enough. In a small Italian study, participants who ate a candy bar’s worth of dark chocolate once a day for 15 days saw their potential for insulin resistance drop by nearly half. “Flavonoids increase nitric oxide production,” says lead researcher Claudio Ferri, M.D., a professor at the University of L’Aquila in Italy. “And that helps control insulin sensitivity.”

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Reduced Stress

UC San Diego researchers recently confirmed what your fat pants could have told them back in college: When times get tough, people tend to dip into the chocolate stash more often than they might otherwise.

And as it turns out, that kind of emotional eating might not be such a bad thing. You know what kind of havoc stress and its sneaky sidekick cortisol can wreak on your body. Swiss scientists (who else?) found that when very anxious people ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for two weeks, their stress hormone levels were significantly reduced and the metabolic effects of stress were partially mitigated. After a breakup, break out a dark chocolate bar rather than a pint of ice cream.

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Sun Protection

London researchers recently tested chocolate flavanols’ sun-protecting prowess. After 3 months eating chocolate with high levels of flavanols, their study subjects’ skin took twice as long to develop that reddening effect that indicates the beginning of a burn.

Subjects who ate conventional low-flavanol chocolate didn’t get the same sun protection. Watch for brands boasting high levels of the healthy compounds.

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Higher Intelligence

Next time you’re under pressure on a work project, don’t feel so guilty about grabbing a dark chocolate bar from the vending machine. Not only will it help your body ward off the effects of stress, but it’ll boost your brain power when you really need it.

A University of Nottingham researcher found that drinking cocoa rich in flavanols boosts blood flow to key parts of the brain for 2 to 3 hours, which could improve performance and alertness in the short term.

Other researchers from Oxford University and Norway looked at chocolate’s long-term effects on the brain by studying the diets of more than 2,000 people over age 70. They found that those who consumed flavanol-rich chocolate, wine, or tea scored significantly higher on cognitive tests than those who didn’t.

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Cough Relief

One study found that chocolate quieted coughs almost as well as codeine, thanks to the theobromine it contains. This chemical, responsible for chocolate’s feel-good effect, may suppress activity in a part of the brain called the vagus nerve.

Maria Belvisi, a professor of respiratory pharmacology at the National Heart and Lung Institute in London, says, “It had none of the negative side effects.” Codeine makes most people feel sleepy and dull—and doesn’t taste anything like fine chocolate.

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Diarrhea Relief

Both South American and European cultures have a history that dates back to the 16th century of treating diarrhea with cocoa. Modern-day science has shown they were onto something.

Scientists at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute found that cocoa flavonoids bind to a protein that regulates fluid secretion in the small intestine, potentially stopping the trots in their tracks.

womenshealthmag

Chocolate ‘may help keep people slim’


Chocolate contains antioxidants but is also high in fat and sugar

By Michelle Roberts Health reporter, BBC News

 

People who eat chocolate regularly tend to be thinner, new research suggests.

The findings come from a study of nearly 1,000 US people that looked at diet, calorie intake and body mass index (BMI) – a measure of obesity.

It found those who ate chocolate a few times a week were, on average, slimmer than those who ate it occasionally.

Even though chocolate is loaded with calories, it contains ingredients that may favour weight loss rather than fat synthesis, scientists believe.

Despite boosting calorie intake, regular chocolate consumption was related to lower BMI in the study, which is published in Archives of Internal Medicine.

The link remained even when other factors, like how much exercise individuals did, were taken into account.

And it appears it is how often you eat chocolate that is important, rather than how much of it you eat. The study found no link with quantity consumed.

According to the researchers, there is only one chance in a hundred that their findings could be explained by chance alone.

But the findings only suggest a link – not proof that one factor causes the other.

Lead author Dr Beatrice Golomb, from the University of California at San Diego, said: “Our findings appear to add to a body of information suggesting that the composition of calories, not just the number of them, matters for determining their ultimate impact on weight.”

This is not the first time scientists have suggested that chocolate may be healthy for us.

Other studies have claimed chocolate may be good for the heart.

Consumption of certain types of chocolate has been linked to some favourable changes in blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and cholesterol level.

And chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, does contain antioxidants which can help to mop up harmful free radicals – unstable chemicals that can damage our cells.

Dr Golomb and her team believe that antioxidant compounds, called catechins, can improve lean muscle mass and reduce weight – at least studies in rodents would suggest this might be so.

Mice fed for 15 days with epicatechin (present in dark chocolate) had improved exercise performance and observable changes to their muscle composition.

They say clinical trials are now needed in humans to see if this is the case.

But before you reach for a chocolate bar, there are still lots of unanswered questions. And in the absence of conclusive evidence, experts advise caution.

While there’s no harm in allowing yourself a treat like chocolate now and again, eating too much might be harmful because it often contains a lot of sugar and fat too.

And if you are looking to change your diet, you are likely to benefit most from eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Read More: BBC

Chocolate pear crisp

  • Cook 45 mins
  • Prep 0 mins

Nutrition per serving

140 kcalories, protein 2.0g, carbohydrate 26.0g, fat 4.0g, saturated fat 0.0g, fibre 2.0g, salt 0.03g

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 3 ripe pears
  • juice ½ lemon
  • 1 tbsp light muscovado sugar
  • 4 tsp Poire William liqueur or cognac (optional)

For the topping

  • 2 oz icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 oz ground almonds
  • 1 egg white

    Method

    1. Heat oven to 160C/fan 140C/gas 3. Chop the pears into small pieces and put in a pan with the lemon juice and sugar. Bring to the boil, then cover and cook for 10 mins. Uncover, then cook for 8-10 mins more until the juices thicken up. Spoon into 4 x 150ml ramekins and add a teaspoon of liqueur to each, if using.
    2. For the topping, sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl, then stir in the almonds. Whisk the egg white until stiff, then fold into the dry ingredients. Spoon over the pears and shake the ramekins to level the mixture. Bake for 20-25 mins until the topping is firm to the touch. Serve warm or cold.

 

Read More: GoodFood

Skinny chocolate & cranberry muffins

These gorgeous low-fat muffins make a great coffee morning treat, best served warm from the oven

  • Cook 20 mins
  • Prep 15 mins

Nutrition per serving

206 kcalories, protein 4.0g, carbohydrate 37.0g, fat 6.0g, saturated fat 1.0g, fibre 1.0g, salt 0.42g

Ingredients

Makes 12

  • 9 oz self-raising flour
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 oz light muscovado sugar
  • 3 oz dried cranberries
  • 1 oz dark chocolate, chopped
  • 4½ oz tub low-fat yogurt
  • 4 fl oz skimmed milk
  • 3 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl. Stir in the sugar and cranberries. Microwave the chocolate on Medium for 1-1½ mins, stir, then set aside.
  2. Mix the yogurt and milk with the oil and egg. Make a well in centre of the dry mix and gently stir in the liquid. Drizzle half the chocolate over the mix, gently fold in until swirled, then repeat with the remaining chocolate. Take care not to over-mix. Spoon the mix into the muffin cases and bake for 15-20 mins until risen and firm to the touch.

 

Read More: Good Food

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