Superfood of the Week [+ a recipe!]: Dark Chocolate

Yes, you read that right, chocolate is this week’s superfood! And no, I’m not delirious either. Chocolate is almost every woman’s “go-to” food after a breakup, bad day, good day, great sex, bad sex, work out, job layoff, promotion…[you get the picture]. No matter what mood you are in, a bite of chocolate releases an overwhelming feeling of comfort, relaxation and nostalgia. However, these feelings are not the only thing fantastic about our favorite dessert,  this treat has real health benefits!

1. Lower blood pressure

According to research posted in a recent study, eating dark chocolate has the ability to decrease blood pressure and improve insulin sensitivity in healthy people. Insulin sensitivity is a major risk factor for diabetes and reduces the body’s ability to process glucose. The rich antioxidants found in dark chocolate have a healthy effect on blood vessels and can boost metabolism.

2. Flavonoids

Flavonoids are naturally occurring compounds found in plants and plant-based foods. They work to help protect plants by shielding them from environmental and man-made toxins, like pesticides and natural producing toxins. When we consume plant-based foods rich in flavonoids, like the dark cocoa bean, we also benefit from the antioxidants found in those plants. These antioxidants and flavonoids help our body’s cells resist damage caused by bacteria and free radicals that enter our body through environmental factors [smoke, smut] and through breathing. When we don’t get enough antioxidants, it allows our bodies to be more susceptible to free radicals and toxins, which can lead to us absorbing more LDL [bad cholesterol] and lead to more plaque in our arteries.

3. Cardiovascular benefits

The natural compounds found in cocoa and dark chocolate  aid the cardiovascular system by improving blood flow throughout the body. Scientists have also discovered that cocoa may help maintain healthy arteries due to the treat’s ability to help your arteries relax, widen and maintain flexibility, which also works to aid in lowering blood pressure. Targeted studies on the effects of cocoa on the cardiovascular function explain that those who consume dark chocolate experience longer lives and less risk for heart disease. The antioxidants in dark chocolate also work to slow down the build up of LDL oxidation in our arteries, which leads to plague buildup and increases the risk of a heart attack.

So grab a Hershey’s dark bar or a glass of dark chocolate milk and relax knowing you are boosting your health with each bite and sip!

For a great way to enjoy dark chocolate without the bitterness, try this recipe below, courtesy of Eating Well!

Dark Fudgey Brownies

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, American-style or Dutch-process
  • 3 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (50-72% cacao), coarsely chopped, plus 2 1/2 ounces chopped into mini chip-size pieces, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup, blended with 3 tablespoons lukewarm water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts, (see Tip), optional
  1. Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with foil, letting it overhang on two opposing sides. Coat with cooking spray.
  2. Sift flour, confectioners’ sugar and cocoa together into a small bowl. Combine the 3 ounces coarsely chopped chocolate and oil in a heavy medium saucepan; place over the lowest heat, stirring, until just melted and smooth, being very careful the chocolate does not overheat. Remove from the heat and stir in granulated sugar, corn syrup mixture, vanilla and salt until the sugar dissolves. Vigorously stir in egg until smoothly incorporated. Gently stir in the dry ingredients. Fold in the walnuts (if using) and the remaining 2 1/2 ounces chopped chocolate just until well blended. Turn out the batter into the pan, spreading evenly.
  3. Bake the brownies until almost firm in the center and a toothpick inserted comes out with some moist batter clinging to it, 20 to 24 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack, about 2 1/2 hours.
  4. Using the overhanging foil as handles, carefully lift the brownie slab from the pan. Peel the foil from the bottom; set the slab right-side up on a cutting board. Using a large, sharp knife, trim off any dry edges. Mark and then cut the slab crosswise into fifths and lengthwise into fourths. Wipe the blade with a damp cloth between cuts.

Nutritional facts: 86 calories; 3 g fat; 2 g protein; 0 g fiber; 19 mg sodium; 25 mg potassium.

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~ by therealnutritionist on April 12, 2010.

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