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Dark chocolate in particular has been shown to reduce blood pressure, inflammation, and the amount of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood, and improve insulin effectiveness and blood vessel health. Chocolate consumption has also been linked to a decrease in heart failure, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, strokes and heart attacks.
The process of manufacturing dark chocolate retains a chemical compound called epicatechin thought responsible for the major health benefits of chocolate, whereas milk chocolate does not contain significant amounts of epicatechin.
Several studies suggest that dark chocolate from flavanol-rich cacao beans may enhance blood flow to central and peripheral nervous systems, improve cardiovascular function, and retard memory loss and other signs and symptoms of degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The cacao flavanols in dark chocolate have antioxidant effects that retard and partially reverse degenerative changes in various diseases. Dark chocolate consumption also has been associated with enhanced mood and cognition. A recent study of 30 adults tested the impact of dark versus milk chocolate on vision. They noted small enhancements in visual acuity and large-letter contrast sensitivity and a slightly larger improvement in small-letter contrast sensitivity after consumption of dark compared with milk chocolate.
Not all studies on chocolate have been positive. Some negative outcomes might be expected because chocolate contain sugar, caffeine, and calories so that higher amounts of intake might be harmful. That raises the question of whether there might be a dose response association between chocolate intake and cardiovascular outcomes. That is, might there be an optimal protective dose of chocolate that decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, with lower amounts having no effect and higher amounts causing harm?
A recent study addressed that question by reviewing and compiling information from fourteen reports on over 400,000 participants. The authors found an overall relative risk reduction of total strokes and heart attacks with chocolate intake, the strongest reduction observed between about 45 g/week (a chocolate single or square per day or a chocolate snack bar per week) and 60–75 g/week. The protective effect for cardiovascular disease was lost when chocolate intake exceeded 100 g/week (two chocolate snack bars per week). One needs to accept these results cautiously because chocolate consumption was self-reported, the type of chocolate could not be identified (which may underestimate the protective effects of dark chocolate), and one can only conclude an association between chocolate consumption and cardiovascular disease, not necessarily causality.
So, enjoy your daily dark chocolate wafer that not only tastes good but is good for you.
Thank you, dear readers, for submitting your delicious recipes for The Saturday Evening Post‘s New Year’s Recipe Challenge. We enjoyed tasting our way to a winner—a satisfyingly rich dessert packed with protein and our favorite ingredient, dark chocolate.
Congratulations Elana Amsterdam of Boulder, Colorado for passing our editors’ picky-palate test.
If you have a yummy recipe you’d like to share with our readers, send it to us at [email protected].
(Makes about 24 brownies)
- 1 (16) ounce jar salted almond butter, smooth roasted
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/4 cups agave nectar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon celtic sea salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup dark chocolate 73%
1. In a large bowl, blend almond butter until smooth with a hand blender
2. Blend in eggs, then blend in agave and vanilla
3. Blend in cocoa, salt and baking soda, then fold in chocolate chips
4. Grease a 9 x 13 pyrex baking dish
5. Pour batter into dish
6. Bake at 325° for 35-40 minutes
17 g fat
4 g saturated
10 g monounsaturated
3 g polyunsaturated
5 g protein
10 g carbs
2 g fiber
18 mg cholesterol
186 mg sodium
For more about Elana Amsterdam, visit her blog at elanaspantry.com.