Chris Zdeb, CanWest News Service, National Post, Thursday, November 22, 2007
Chocolate has come to be demonized as the key ingredient in sinful desserts such as devil’s food cake. But for 95% of its 3,000 year history, chocolate was considered a health food.
Laine, who teaches an extension course on healthy food preparation at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, has written the book Health By Chocolate, which shows how to get the benefits of raw cacao — or raw chocolate — and the benefits of whole food ingredients, which are foods closest to their natural state.
She discovered the benefits of the dark side after depriving herself of chocolate for several years when she was in her twenties, and chocolate was thought to be triggering some of her health problems, including allergies and food sensitivity.
Studies have found that chocolate contains flavonols, compounds that reduce the stickiness of platelets, cells that play an important role in blood clotting. Chocolate also contains polyphenols, antioxidants similar to compounds found in fruit, vegetables, red wine and green tea, that help eradicate free radicals in the body thought to lead to heart disease, cancer and premature aging. In fact, it has a higher concentration of antioxidants than spinach, blueberries or green tea.
According to the University of California Berkeley Wellness Letter, one study of the benefits of exercise found that men who eat chocolate in moderation live longer than those who eat none. Tannins in chocolate help prevent cavities, making chocolate better for teeth than other sweets.
“It also boosts serotonin levels in the brain. Women typically have lower serotonin levels during PMS and menstruation, which may be why we typically experience craving for chocolate at that time,” Laine explains.
And contrary to popular belief chocolate does not cause acne, allergies, migraines or hyperactivity. It actually has much less caffeine than most people think, Laine says.
But all chocolate is not created equal.
For any health benefits, chocolate has to be at least 70% dark, Laine says. The higher the percentage of dark chocolate, the better. Chocolate’s bad rap comes from the highly refined sugars and poor-quality fats with which it’s partnered to make tasty confections such as commercial chocolate bars.
Laine is trying to improve chocolate’s street cred by mixing it up with natural healthful sweeteners like dried fruit — dates, prunes, apricots and avocados — that provide vitamins, minerals and fibre, a little maple syrup or honey, whole grain flours, nuts and seeds. But after adding all of these decidedly non-decadent items, it still tastes good? “Ooh, yes!”
“We can certainly put on pounds with healthful chocolate as well, if we overindulge,” Laine cautions. “But the chances of overindulging is less because we feel satiated by the fibre-filled whole foods mixed in with it.” – PURCHASE – Health by Chocolate: radical new recipes & nutritional know-how!
Mmm, you love Turtles! But those tasty little creatures are packed with sugars and fats. Here’s Laine’s gooey alternative that offers the same satisfaction. Healthy Turtle Bon Bon Recipe