Published on January 26, 2015

Come over to the Dark Side…Of Chocolate That Is!

Dark chocolateLove chocolate?  Then here’s some easy to swallow news just in time for National Heart Health Month and Valentine’s Day!   Chocolate can be good for you! 

This ever popular super food and its main ingredient, cocoa, are uber-packed with good-for-you antioxidants, and reduce risk factors for heart disease.  The flavanols in cocoa beans have antioxidant effects that appear to reduce the cellular damage implicated in heart disease, and may also help lower blood pressure, increase good cholesterol, improve mood, and improve vascular function.  Additionally, some research has linked chocolate consumption to reduced risks of diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.  Magnesium, a mineral found in dark chocolate is considered to be heart protective as well.  It’s naturally low-glycemic to boot!

But before you dive head first into a rich glass of chocolate milk, or a variety pack of minis, consider the following: not all chocolate is created equal!  Dark chocolate is inherently richer in flavanols than the more processed versions.  Experts are undoubtedly touting the purest, dark varieties that are richest in unprocessed cocoa, when heart related and other health benefits of chocolate are conferred.  The more processed semi-sweet and milk chocolate options are often higher in unhealthful fat, added sugar, and calories.  So despite its beneficial properties, just like red wine, too much of a good thing doesn’t add up to great.  Dark chocolate is a treat that’s good for you, but it’s still a treat.  Go for the good stuff and enjoy it in small amounts!

Therefore, if you’re thinking of keeping it in, or adding it to, your nutrition plan, dip your thoughts into this chocolate take home message:  Aim for the higher quality, less processed, dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa content, most often, and the more processed less healthful versions less often, if at all.  A.k.a. “Bitter is better!”

Hey, chocolate may have a dark side, but its heart health and tasting delicious over here!

Checkout the “Dark Chocolate-Cabernet Fondue” recipe below for a fun, interactive way, to include not only dark chocolate, but a variety of heart healthy foods including nuts and fresh fruits!

Dark Chocolate-Cabernet Fondue

Chocolate Fondue Nutrition FactsServing size:  ½ cup fruit + 3 tablespoons fondue + 1 tablespoon nuts
#Servings:  4

Ingredients:
1 each   Banana, peeled, sliced
1 each    Apple, cored, sliced
1 each    Clementine, peeled, segmented
1 cup    Strawberries, hulled, whole
¼ cup    Chopped nuts, roasted, unsalted (i.e. walnuts, peanuts, pistachios, and/or almonds)

½ cup    Un-sweetened natural cocoa powder
3 tablespoons  Pure honey
½ cup   Cabernet red wine
½ cup    Non-fat evaporated milk

1 teaspoon   Vanilla extract
2 ounces   Dark chocolate solids, finely chopped

Preparation:
1. In a medium heavy bottomed saucepan gently simmer the red wine until reduced in volume by half. 
2. Gradually whisk in the honey, cocoa powder, and evaporated milk, until a paste consistency is reached.  Cook, stirring constantly, over low-heat until simmering. 
3. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla and dark chocolate until the chocolate is melted. 
4. The mixture will thicken as it cools slightly. 
5. Transfer the chocolate to a fondue pot, and keep warm. 
6. Attach the fruit to fondue forks, dip into the chocolate, and roll into nuts, if desired.   
7. Enjoy!