(Editor's Note: Yesterday marked the beginning of American Chocolate Week. Find two delicious recipes in today's and Friday's posts that will help you celebrate this surprisingly healthy food.)
Chocolate is easy to like. It contains a slew of compounds that make us feel good, such as the aptly named “love chemical” — phenylethylamine — and tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin, which has a calming effect and may help with depression. By raising endorphin levels, eating chocolate can result in increased mood, pleasure and relaxation.
Apart from all the good feelings it brings, chocolate may also have health benefits. These potential perks focus primarily on the heart through lowering blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and the risk of both stroke and heart disease. In fact, cocoa butter has a favorable fatty acid profile with a third of its fat coming from oleic acid, the mono-unsaturated omega 9 fatty acid that is also found in olive oil. And if we needed one more reason to eat chocolate, it would be its antioxidants in the form of flavonoids that fight inflammation (and win!). Oh yeah, and it tastes really good, too!
In order to reap the mental and physical blessing that chocolate offers:
- Choose chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cacao
- Keep your portion to one ounce (about 150 calories)
- Skip the milk (milk either with or in chocolate will bind to the antioxidants so your body can’t use them)
- Savor every bite!
Here’s one of my favorite ways to enjoy chocolate:
Choco-Coconut Caribbean Crispies
Recipe developed by Michaela Ballmann, MS, RD
Makes 5 cups
16 oz. dark chocolate, chopped (70 percent dark chocolate chunks, or a bar such as Ghiradelli
1 cup crispy brown rice cereal
½ cup shredded coconut, unsweetened, toasted (flakes would also work)
¼ cup dried mango, chopped
Sea salt for topping, optional
- Line a baking pan with parchment or wax paper.
- Melt dark chocolate using a double boiler or microwave.
• Double boiler method: Bring a small saucepan of water to a low simmer then turn the heat to low. Place a heatproof bowl on top of the pot that fits snugly and doesn’t allow steam to escape, add the chocolate and stir until melted.
• Microwave method: Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on 50 percent power in 30-second intervals, stirring in between with a rubber spatula, until just melted.
- Add brown rice cereal and stir until gently coated. Spread into a thin layer on the prepared baking sheet.
- Immediately sprinkle coconut and dried mango on top of the chocolate as well as the sea salt, if using.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Peel off of the parchment paper and cut or break into bite-sized pieces.