Chocolate and Health: Tips for Keeping the Love All-Year Round

Let’s face it:  there is nothing quite like the taste of chocolate.  Revered and enjoyed by many cultures worldwide, chocolate has the powerful ability to be simply irresistible.  Valentine's Day is a great opportunity to try something new.

When it comes to health benefits, chocolate lays claim to a group of antioxidants called flavonoids from cocoa beans.  The darker and the more high-quality the chocolate, the more flavonoids it contains.  So milk chocolate (which has more milk and sugar) and white chocolate (which isn’t really chocolate) don’t count.  In addition, dark chocolate has less fat which tends to come from cocoa butter whereas milk chocolate tends to have more fat from cocoa and butter fat.

I believe that part of the health benefit from any food comes from your enjoyment of it.  There are many foods that are high in antioxidants so the key is to pick the ones you’re especially fond of (it doesn’t have to be chocolate).   Also, think of chocolate as a flavor rather than a food.  You can enjoy the flavor of chocolate by adding high-antioxidant cocoa powder to many things: from smoothies to warm beverages and baked goods. 

When it comes to chocolate, exercise your best judgment.  Stay low in refined sugar, fat and artificial ingredients.  Make the cocoa work for you, not the other way around. 

This recipe is a way to enjoy the satisfaction of chocolate and boost your nutrients for the week.  Call it a pudding, a smoothie or whatever you like.  In our home, it’s an easy concoction to blend and serve.  I love it and so do my kids! 

Dr. Clara’s Cocoa Pudding

Ingredients:

½ avocado

2 bananas (yellow, but not overly ripe)

¼ almond butter

4 T cacao powder

2 teaspoons chia seeds

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Pinch of sea salt

Maple syrup or agave to taste (1-2 T optional)

Blend all of the above with a handheld blender.  For variation, add 1 tsp fruit-sweetened berry jam and crushed up nuts or granola and 1 T of mascarpone cheese per serving.  Refrigerate for an hour and serve.

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