Sunday, April 13, 2014

In Praise of Chocolate

My favorite actor is going to be on TV tonight. Yes. Anthony Howell is playing legendary chocolatier Jean Neuhaus on Mr Selfridge.

Behold:
This pairing is just too exciting, I have to blog about it. So today I'm going to talk to you about chocolate, and all the health benefits contained therein.

I love chocolate. Really, I love it. It's one of the Top 10 Foods I Can't Live Without. (Yes, I'm compiling a list.) And chocolate not simply a gustatory decadence, it has vital... nutrients. I mean, sure, you can get them from other places, but why would you want to? When you could have them in chocolate? While watching Anthony? On PBS?

So just to keep everything on-topic, I did a little exhaustive internet researchtm and here's what I found:
  • Chocolate contains flavonoids, which act as antioxidants, protecting the body aging from the dastardly misdeeds of free radicals. Doesn't 'free radicals' conjure up images of Iran Contra, Oliver North and the Ninja Turtles? But seriously, free radicals are bad. They can wreak all kinds of havoc in your body, leading to heart disease and other bad stuff. Dark chocolate contains 8 TIMES the number of flavonoids than the saintly strawberry. EIGHT TIMES. Yes, people, you heard it here at the barre.
  • Studies have also shown that regular (moderate) consumption of dark chocolate can lower blood pressure in individuals with elevated BP. 
  • Chocolate can reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad kind... like the free radicals) by up to 10%.
  • Eating chocolate stimulates the production of endorphins--the delicious chemicals that make you all happy after exercise. And sex. Lalalalala.... (Read more about endorphins here.)
  • Chocolate also produces serotonin! This is the hormone that makes you HAPPY! Lord, I'm going to be so happy tonight... assuming I can stay awake for it. Yay!
  • Yes, chocolate contains fat, but one of the fats is the oleic acid kind, a monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil. So it's healthy fat. In fact, 2/3 of the fat in chocolate is healthy fat. I like fat. Happy!
  • Nestle researchers found that women who ate 1.5oz of chocolate everyday lowered cortisol levels, which we've talked about before.
  • Lastly, the flavanols found in cocoa trigger pathways that may stave off Alzheimer's disease and dementia. So chocolate is not only good for your body, it's good for your mind.
So if you decide to take chocolate for medicinal purposes (don't you love how I'm spinning this? I should work at the White House), bear in mind a few key things:
  • As it is with all... er, remedies... proper dosage is important. Chocolate is calorically-dense. Sorry to bring it up, but it's true. So don't get too crazy.
  • It needs to be dark--at least 65% cocoa. Anything less can't boast any health claims--then it's just candy. The Nestle researchers compared a group of men who ate at least 70% dark chocolate vs. a group that had the milk variety. The dark chocolate eaters went on to consume 17% fewer calories than the milk chocolate eaters. 
  • Don't have it in concert with milk. Some research shows consuming chocolate with a glass of milk prevents your body from absorbing all the antioxidants. And you need those. For the free radicals.
I'm trying to publish this in time for you to get yourself some high-quality dark chocolate before the show tonight. No Hershey's--I beg you. Hopefully we'll get to enjoy seeing Anthony in something which doesn't involve the loss of an apendage, a mean wife or getting a dagger plunged into his chest, but there's a war on, so who knows?


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