broken chocolate bits
Bread,  Breakfast,  Desserts,  Food For Better Health,  Healthy Eating,  Recipes

Health Benefits of Chocolate

Yes, it is true  – certain kinds of chocolate actually have health benefits.

Cocoa beans, like all seeds, are rich in nutrients that support the plant during development.

More about cholesterol image linkThey are especially rich in saturated fats, which contribute to high cholesterol levels and heart disease.

However, cocoa butter contains a particular fatty acid, that our bodies immediately convert into unsaturated fat.

Therefore, chocolate is NOT thought to pose a risk for heart disease, in fact, cocoa is very rich in antioxidant compounds, which accounts for about 8% of the weight of cocoa powder.

The higher the cocoa solids content of chocolate, the higher the antioxidant content.

Any added sugar, milk, or cocoa butter dilute the cocoa solids.

How Chocolate is Made

Chocolate comes from the tropical cocoa bean, Theobroma cacao.

Beans are removed from their pods, then fermented, dried, roasted and cracked, separating the nibs (which contain 54% cocoa butter) from the shells.

The nibs are ground to extract some of the cocoa butter, leaving behind, a thick, dark brown paste called chocolate liquor.

Then the chocolate receives initial refining.

Here is when other ingredients may be added, such as milk powder or sugar.

If other ingredients are added, the chocolate is refined again.

The final step for most chocolate is conching, a process by which rotating blades slowly blend the heated chocolate liquor, ridding it of any residual moisture and volatile acids.

The conching goes on for about 12 – 72 hours (depending upon the type and quality of the chocolate).

Sometimes, lecithin {a group of lipids found in plants and animals} are added to give chocolate its smooth texture.

 

Composition of Chocolate

Cocoa is rich in plant chemicals called flavanols that many believe help protect our hearts.

As previously mentioned, the higher the cocoa solids, the higher the antioxidant content, we are going to focus on DARK CHOCOLATE.

Dark chocolate contains cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar – NO MILK; and is available as sugarless bitter, to bittersweet, to sweet.

Premium chocolate lists the percentage of cocoa beans, on the package.

Because dark chocolate contains more flavanols, it possesses a more intense chocolate flavor.

These flavanols help to relax blood vessels and improve blood flow, thereby lowering blood pressure.

However, dark chocolate is high in calories (150-170 per ounce) and can contribute to weight gain if eaten in excess.

Choosing dark chocolate to satisfy a craving, IN SMALL quantities may offer a health benefit as well.

Fighting the Craving

Chocolate has a complex rich flavor which arises from two factors:

  1. the cacao bean’s natural flavor potential, a combination of sugars, proteins & enzymes to make up its flavor
  2. the refining process; including additives, the roasting process, and the fermentation of the beans.

Long ago, most thought chocolate contained certain psychoactive and additive chemicals.

Turns out, chocolate does share some of the same cannabinoid chemicals found in marijuana, but they are so small, it has no significance.

Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, a naturally occurring body chemical, which acts like an amphetamine, but so do most fermented foods.

According to On Food and Cooking, by Harold McGee, psychologists claim that imitation chocolate can satisfy a craving.

However, I find eating a few bites of dark chocolate work best for me.

Chocoley.com has some incredible recipes using their high-quality products, from fondue to ganache.

Chocoley Products

Whenever I have a craving for chocolate, I eat two or three mini-chips of the Ascend Couverture Dark Chocolate, which is only a few calories.

No need to eat an entire candy bar or a slice of cake.

The Semi-Sweet Dark couverture chocolate is excellent for melting and using as a syrup for smoothies.

I heat 4 ozs. of lactose-free milk to a simmer – add 2 ozs. of Chocoley semi-sweet chips, whisking until dissolved completely.

Turn off heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  Place in a glass jar…secure with a lid and place in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

I just add 1-2 Tablespoons to my banana/strawberry smoothie for a hint of chocolate.

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Breakfast Smoothie RecipeCLICK HERE!

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A Healthy Chocolate Alternative

Cacao tea sample bag with a coffee mugCacao Tea is formed from loose-leaf cacao husks (also known as cacao shells) which surround the cacao bean.

Cacao Tea Company uses organically and sustainably grown cacao husks from South America.

They harvest and roast their tea with such care, as to supply the highest quality product.

Recently, Renee, a JoAnn’s Food Bites subscriber, won a Cacao Tea Company sample pack after a recent giveaway promotion.

After steeping it in hot water, Renee said, “When I think of it as a tea, it has an amazing taste and is already sweet,  without sweeteners.” 

She was surprised by the “beautifully delicate chocolate flavor.”

I asked her to try it in warm milk.

She replied, “I definitely like it best with creamer.  I didn’t have to add sweetener because it already has a little sweetness. It’s very good this way.” 

As a chocolate alternative, try Organic Cacao Tea from The Cacao Tea Company.

You satisfy your chocolate craving, without sugar, dairy, gluten or calories.

            CACAO TEA COMPANY


Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Muffins Recipe

I obtained this recipe from New Sprout Organic Farms in Asheville, NC.

I love potatoes, but not sweet potatoes; however, these muffins are absolutely delicious.

Use your favorite, high-quality chocolate to elevate these addictive, but healthy muffins.

sweet potato muffins with chocolate chips
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5 from 1 vote

Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Muffins

These muffins can be frozen and thawed for a quick breakfast on the go. Just microwave for 40 seconds or so, depending on the wattage of your microwave. Recipe courtesy of www.ncsweetpotatoes.com
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword muffins, sweet potatoes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 12 servings
Calories 206kcal
Author New Sprout Organic Farm

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 Cups sugar
  • 2 Cups room temperature mashed sweet potatoes
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 pkg. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350º degrees.
  • Peel, wash, and cut sweet potatoes into diced shapes. Place sweet potatoes in a food processor and pulse 10-15 times, till potatoes resemble mashed potato consistency.
  • Beat eggs, sugar, sweet potatoes and oil in a large bowl until smooth.
  • In a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients together.
  • Gradually add dry ingredients to liquid ingredients, stirring after adding a little at a time. Stir all ingredients together till thoroughly combined.
  • Fold in chocolate chips.
  • Fill a muffin or cupcake tin with paper-lined cups.
  • Fill each cup 3/4 full.
  • Bake 16-20 minutes.
  • Enjoy!
  • Makes 3-4 dozen muffins, depending on the size of muffins you chose.

Email me your favorite way to eat chocolate.

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