The best chocolate is not only good for your body, mind and spirit. It can even help protect you from degenerative conditions—from cancer and heart disease to Alzheimer’s. Yes, really! But it has to be the right kind of chocolate, and in the right quantity. Next time you’re feeling anxious you can reach for a piece of dark chocolate and feel good about it. The emerging chocolate story is a fascinating one, and it is only just beginning to break.
The mythology of chocolate began with the ancient gods of the New World. It was the Olmec Indians in Central America who are credited with the discovery of the cocoa tree. Later, the Aztecs and Toltecs who called this substance “food of the gods” told the story of how Quetzalcoatl, the supreme god of the air, brought the seeds of the tree to earth as a gift to his chosen people. Montezuma the great Aztec king is believed to have downed 50 pitchers of an elixir made from chocolate each day. The drink was called xocolatl, an aphrodisiac and fountain of strength sexuality and vigor. Cortez, who brought it back to Europe in the sixteenth century, soon created a chocolate storm among the courtiers. Madame Pompadour gave her seal of approval to chocolate as an aphrodisiac, while Casanova claimed chocolate was the perfect tool for seduction. Some recent research partly explains why. Scientists in California have isolated a substance in chocolate which links into our brain receptor sites and, like cannabis, brings sensations of pleasure and relaxation. But chocolate, I suspect, has many secrets. This is just one of them, which feeds our passion for this dark and seductive food and, at the same time, enhances our passion for love.
BENEFITS ARE MANY
The researchers found that eating about one ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day for two weeks reduces levels of stress hormones, but it has to be very dark chocolate—between 75 and 85% cocoa solids.
There is a huge difference between the minimally processed dark chocolate and the milk chocolate found in most candy bars. Raw, unsweetened cocoa powder which is high in antioxidant flavonols and contains no sugar is very different from the common cocoa drinks that are loaded with sugar. They offer no antioxidant support whatsoever.
Meanwhile, minimally processed dark chocolate has already been linked to a number of health benefits. Dark chocolate has been found to reduce urinary excretion of the stress hormone cortisol and catecholamines in stressed individuals who took part in the study. What is interesting is that in those who did not have highly-stressed lives it made no difference.
Some of the health benefits from chocolate are due to the antioxidants present in cocoa itself, such as flavonols. These are a sub-class of flavonoids, and are natural plant chemicals (phytochemicals) found in fruits and vegetables. There are several thousand compounds belonging to the antioxidant-rich polyphenol family, also called phytochemicals, which are very good for us.
DON’T EAT MILK CHOCOLATE
The total antioxidant content of chocolate products is directly associated with the amount of raw cocoa that the chocolate contains. A published in the ‘Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry’ showed that in terms of healthy antioxidant content, cocoa powder rated first, followed by unsweetened baking chocolate, dark chocolate and semi-chocolate chips.
Milk chocolate has very few of these antioxidants. This is primarily because it’s heavily processed. In fact, the typical commercial chocolate has less than half of the flavonoids remaining after processing. As well as that, milk chocolate contains milk, which tends to cancel out cocoa’s antioxidant effects. This was discovered in a study published in the journal ‘Nature’. The reason this happens is that proteins in the milk bind with the antioxidants, making them less easily absorbed by your body. Another thing about processed chocolate is that often it is high in lead. Many researchers believe that milk in processed chocolate is also often contaminated by other heavy metals, but no one is quite sure why this happens.
In another study published several years ago, researchers discovered that one cup of hot cocoa, made with pure cocoa powder, had about double the amount of antioxidants than those found in a glass of red wine, more than double the amount than in green tea, and four to five times more than in black tea.
Perhaps even more surprisingly, dark unprocessed chocolate has been exonerated in a number of studies as exerting positive effects on your health. One example, believe it or not, is that it improves glucose metabolism. It also improves blood pressure levels and your cardiovascular system.
FOOD OF THE GODS
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should be swallowing chocolate every minute or two. The ideal amount of good dark chocolate—preferably organic—that you should eat is very little.
A study published a couple of years back discovered that between 6 and 7 grams of dark chocolate per day, which is a little less than half a bar a week, is probably the ideal amount for protecting us against inflammation and cardiovascular disease. Any more than this appears to cancel out the benefits.
This is not surprising because chocolate, like coffee, has throughout history been considered one of the sacred foods and the sacred foods need to be honored. Such foods have powerful energies. We thrive when we take them only in small quantities. This is the only way we can take advantage of all they have to offer us on every level.
LESLIE’S CHOCOLATE BROWNIES
If you're going to eat chocolate, eat only the best—not only because it's the most delicious, but also because it is the real thing. On the market these days, you find all sorts of imitation chocolate products which have had vegetable fat added to them. Avoid them. Even natural chocolate is often processed with an alkali which makes it high in sodium and interferes with the absorption of the magnesium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron and calcium which are the natural birthright of pure cocoa. These days most cocoa comes from Africa, although it was originally from Central America and the West Indies. When buying chocolate, always buy plain chocolate or bitter, dark chocolate, and always go organic. There is no question whatsoever that organic chocolate is the most delicious in the world. This recipe is flour-free, which makes it much richer. It is much more like a mousse than a conventional brownie, in the sense that it is absolutely riddled with chocolate flavor. So if you happen to be a chocoholic, you will absolutely adore it. Serve it with whipped cream, provided you do not have a problem with dairy products. (These days, because most milk is so polluted, many people do have issues with them.) Sprinkle the brownies with toasted flaked almonds. I think you'll love them, whipped cream or no whipped cream.
WHAT YOU NEED
- 400g of dark organic chocolate—85% cocoa content or above is best
- 200g of unsalted butter
- 8 eggs, separated
- 1 rounded teaspoon of granulated Stevia by Stevita (or to taste)
- 3 tablespoons of finely powdered almonds
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- 200g of toasted almond flakes
- 5g of shaved black chocolate—at least 85% cocoa with no milk and no sugar added to it
Heat your oven to 180ºC (350ºF, gas mark 4). Use butter to grease the sides and bottom of an 8” square or round pan—the kind the bottom comes out of. Line the pan with parchment or waxed paper and grease the paper with butter as well. Now wrap the outside of the pan with aluminum foil. Melt the chocolate and the butter in the top of a Bain Marie until smooth and melted. Keep stirring this mixture as it melts. Remove it from the heat and cool to body temperature, continuing to stir frequently. Using a food processor or electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and stevia in a big bowl for about 3 minutes until it goes pale and thick. Now very gently fold the lukewarm chocolate mixture into the egg yolk one. Making sure your blades are washed and dried thoroughly, beat the egg whites in a different large bowl to soft-peak stage. Continue beating until peaks start to go firm. Fold the white into the chocolate mixture little by little—ever so gently. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake until the top puffs up and cracks, and until a toothpick stuck into the middle comes out with some moist crumbs attached. This usually takes about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a rack. Don’t be distressed if the brownie mix ‘falls’: this is what is supposed to happen, and what gives it its rich flavor. When it is cool, take a sharp knife and cut around the sides of the pan to loosen the brownies. Place a large plate or piece of cardboard over the top and invert the brownie mix on to it. Peel off the paper. Now cut into squares or slices. Serve with a sprinkle of slivered toasted almonds and shaved black chocolate on top, or add some fresh strawberries or raspberries. The great charm of these brownies is their rich, deep, sexy chocolate flavor.
SUSANNAH KENTON’S FREEZER FUDGE
Check out my daughter Susannah’s delightful website. There’s much else wonderful you can discover there:
Sugar, refined flour and junk fats have a lot to answer for in degrading health and contributing to obesity. Cutting back on all three is a great way to boost your energy, slim down and reclaim wellbeing. But, at the same time, no one likes to feel deprived.
That's why I've created Freezer Fudge. Although relatively caloric (thanks to healthy fats like coconut oil—which actually boosts metabolism), it makes a great guilt-free, sugar-free, grain-free snack. It will help you feel full, satisfied and energized, not crashed and cravey. Because it includes protein and fat, just one or two pieces are all you need for a quick pick-me-up.* Best of all, it's absolutely scrumptious. I challenge you to feel any sense of deprivation eating it. Enjoy this tasty treat and feel energized and virtuous! Tastes even better than your favorite chocolate!
WHAT YOU NEED
- 100g unsalted organic butter
- 100g coconut oil
- 75g almond butter
- 100g Vital Whey protein powder chocolate flavor
- 50g 100% pure cocoa powder (unsweetened)
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla essence
- 1 tsp English Toffee stevia drops (you can use plain liquid stevia or granulated Stevia by Stevita instead, to taste.)
Combine the ingredients in a food processor, using the blade attachment, until smooth. If you don't have a food processor, melt the butter and coconut oil first, then stir all the ingredients together in a bowl.
Smooth the mixture into a rectangular container and freeze for about a half hour.
Press the fudge block out of its container, place on a chopping board, and cut into squares.
ONLY THE BEGINNING
Let me know if you would like more information about chocolate and some more recipes. In one newsletter I can only scratch the surface. It is a subject that fascinates me and there is so much wonderful news about this glorious food of the gods. If it interests you, I am happy to share a lot more with you next week.
Ingredients that are great to use
Vivani, 100% Organic Dark Chocolate with 85% Cocoa
Order Organic Dark Chocolate from iherb
Ghirardelli, Premium Baking Bar, 100% Cacao, Unsweetened Chocolate, 4 oz (113 g)
Order Premium Baking Bar from iherb
Rapunzel, Organic Cocoa Powder, 7.1 oz (201 g)
Order Organic Cocoa Powder from iherb
Well Wisdom, Vital Whey, Natural Cocoa, 21 oz (600 g)
Order Chocolate Micro Filtered Whey from iherb
Stevita, Stevia Spoonable, 16 oz (454 g)
Order Spoonable Stevia from iherb
Wisdom Natural, Sweet Drops, Liquid Stevia Sweetener, English Toffee, 2 fl oz (60 ml)
Order Liquid Stevia from iherb