Cocoa Weather!

A chill in the air, and out comes the milk, cocoa, and mug…

hot cocoa

How to make your hot chocolate go from a sugar bomb to healthy?  Use real cocoa…I haven’t used the ‘hot chocolate powder’ in years.  That is mostly sugar.  Baking cocoa is the real deal.  You decide how sweet it will be…I don’t use sugar, as I find the small amount of sugar in my almond milk does the trick, but everyone has their own preference…just do it yourself so you know how much you are getting!

This month’s Women’s Health has an article touting the benefits of dark chocolate, focusing on the three main ingredients of the more ‘pure’ store-bought treats: cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and sugar.

 

Did you know cocoa is chock full of antioxidants?  Between this and the caffeine kick, blood flow is increased to the brain, helping you think better, faster, and smarter.  According to this article, “Countries high in per-capita chocolate consumption produce lots of Nobel Prize winners—we’re just sayin’…”  Haha!

Additionally, by allowing yourself a bit of the treat, you help stave off cravings and over-indulgence of something else.  People who have such a balance tend to weigh less, as they do not deprive themselves and later fall into a binge of ‘restricted foods’ when they can’t take it any longer.  And, cocoa butter can release natural endorphins, too.

 

So many articles continue such information….

One of my favorites is this article from NPR,

as it begins with the sentence:

Boy, it’s a good time to be a dark-chocolate lover.”

In brief, bits this article points out regarding benefits of cocoa:

-Reduce inflammation

-Good for your gut

-Lower blood pressure

Interesting excerpt:

“Cocoa powder is packed with potent antioxidants, called polyphenols. These healthful molecules are also found in dark berries and black tea. And they’re known to help the heart and possibly prevent cancer.

 

But there’s one major problem with many polyphenols: They’re so large that they don’t get absorbed into the blood. That’s where the critters in your gut can help out, Finley says.

 

Previous studies have found that gut bacteria like to feast on polyphenols from blackberries and tea. So Finley wanted to see what the bugs would do with the polyphenols in cocoa powder…

“The microbes break down the polyphenols into smaller molecules that are more likely to make it across the gut into the blood,” Finely says. Those compounds are the good ones that help reduce inflammation and stress in the blood vessels.

 

And the friendly bacteria don’t stop there. They also feasted on the fiber in cocoa powder, Finley and his team found. “The microbes break down the fiber into short fatty chain acids, which get absorbed and can have an effect on satiety,” he says….

“That’s the big missing link right now,” Lambert tells The Salt. We know now that gut bacteria can break down cocoa into compounds that have beneficial cardiovascular effects, he says. But we don’t know yet if these are the critical ones inside the blood.

 

In the meantime, I’ll keep indulging my gut bacteria with a few cubes of extra dark chocolate each day. Seems like a win-win situation for both of us.”

 

Want to read more on this?

Cocoa flavonoids are thought to have a protective effect on cardiovascular health through their ability to alter a number of pathological processes involved in the development of CVD.

http://www.eufic.org/article/en/artid/health-benefits-cocoa-flavanoids/

 

In the study of 856 adults, Australian scientists found that those who ate 30-1080 mg of dark chocolate or cocoa per day—both of which are rich in antioxidants called flavanols—had slightly lower blood pressure readings than those who didn’t. It’s probably due to the fact that flavanols boost the production of nitrous oxide in your body, which in turn causes your blood vessel walls to relax and open.

http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/eat-cocoa-for-lower-blood-pressure#sthash.P3dTVHuo.dpuf

 

Dark Chocolate: The Best and The Worst

http://healthyeater.com/dark-chocolate-best-and-worst

 

Time to heat up that stove top…

Kate

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