Friday, August 29, 2008

Eat More Chocolate Flavanols

By Harvey Robinson

If you love to eat chocolate there is good news, it is good for you! Chocolate is high in flavanols that have potent antioxidant potential and have been shown to reduce the risk of many diseases.

The quality of the chocolate you eat is important and the darker the chocolate, the more chocolate flavanols it has. The darker, high quality chocolates use cocoa butter and cocoa solids as their main ingredients. Chocolates contain some saturated fats, but some saturated fat in your diet is good for you. Cocoa butter is a fat derived from cocoa plants (Theobroma cacao). Cocoa butter is expensive, the cheaper brands replace the cocoa butter with milk fats and hydrogenated oils. Fat is essential for the body, just make sure it is a good fat and not too much. Milk chocolate is diluted with milk and bleached white sugar, bleached white sugar is not good for your body.

The best for you is unsweetened cocoa, it is one of the purest forms of chocolate. It makes a great hot chocolate with a spoon of honey. Unsweetened cocoa powder is lower in fat and calories and it has more of the dark chocolate flavanols. This is a way to experience the characteristic properties of the cocoa bean, another way is to relish a bar that is 99% cocoa. A 99% or 85% cocoa content does not always mean there is going to be the great flavor you want. The quality of the beans and the way they are processed have the biggest part in determining the quality of the taste.

Flavanols are a group of phytonutrients within the flavonoid family. Flavonoids are a diverse class of phytonutrients found in a assortment of foods. Flavanols are the predominant flavonoids in tea, red wine and dark chocolates.

The workings behind flavanols and how they function in the body are becoming much better understood. Research provides evidence that flavanols may be responsible for preventing blood platelets from aggregating, improving blood flow and vessel function and may help prevent certain cancers.

The cocoa flavanol responsible for a reduction in platelet aggregation has been found and can be synthesized. This means cocoa flavanols can be made by drug companies into a major new class of drugs, based on flavanols, to treat vascular complications associated with diabetes, strokes, cardiovascular disease and a range of other impairments.

Cocoa butter has long been used to add flavor, scent, and smoothness to skin creams, lotions, cosmetics, tanning oils and soaps. There is evidence that eating cocoa flavanols may increase hydration, improve skin smoothness, and help the skin defend it's self against sun damage.

This is great news for all chocolate eaters. Just don?t forget that a little dark chocolate is good, too much is not better, chocolate is loaded with calories. Over consumption of caffeine should not be a problem, chocolate has very little caffeine. A small serving only contains about as much caffeine as a cup of decaffeinated coffee. That is why I eat the chocolate covered espresso beans.

The chocolate you eat should contain at least 70% cocoa and should be dark or bittersweet. I eat nothing less than 85% cocoa. 85% cocoa is not for everybody, it is not sweet and may be a bit bitter for some people. My advice is to eat a small amount every day with your morning tea. It goes great with irish breakfast tea, but if you want to get a real dose of morning flavonoids try 85% cocoa with gunpowder green tea.

That is a great way to start the morning. Make sure you enjoy it, when you enjoy your flavonoids they are even better for you. Let each bite melt in your mouth and think about how good it is for you. Make it your morning meditation. Take a bite and think about how good things are going to happen today, how much you are going to get done and how easy things are going to go. Your day is going to go just like the chocolate melting in your mouth. Now, wash it down with gunpowder green tea and get to work.

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