updated 06/19/2013 AT 3:00 PM ET
•originally published 06/19/2013 AT 4:00 PM ET
Those of you that regularly read my blog know I’m a self-confessed chocoholic.
Chocolate chip cookies, cakes, brownies, icing and I’ve even been known to eat Nutella straight from the jar when I’m having a cheat meal.
Well, a growing body of research may actually support my habit. It seems that a couple of cocoa rich “hits” each week may have some health benefits.
New research has concluded that men who eat modest amounts of chocolate (the equivalent of about 1/3 cup of chocolate chips – or 63 grams – per week) had a lower risk of stroke compared to those who did not consume any chocolate.
In a larger analysis of five studies that included 4,260 stroke cases, the risk of stroke for individuals in the highest category of chocolate consumption was 19 percent lower than for non-chocolate consumers. For every increase in chocolate consumption of 50 grams per week, or about a quarter cup of chocolate chips, the risk of stroke decreased by about 14 percent.
The beneficial effect of chocolate consumption on stroke may be related to a compound in chocolate called flavonoids. Flavonoids are thought to protect against cardiovascular disease through antioxidant, anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties and may decrease blood concentrations of LDL or “bad” cholesterol and reduce blood pressure.
Another recent study found that mice fed the human equivalent of 10 tbsp of cocoa week experienced less obesity-related inflammation than mice fed the diet without the cocoa over a 10-week period. Further, the “cocoa group” experience 27 percent lower plasma insulin levels (high levels of insulin can signal that a patient has diabetes) and an improved lipid profiles when compared to the mice that were not fed cocoa.
Yet another group of scientists from Sweden discovered that women who ate an average of one to two servings of the high-quality chocolate per week had a 32 percent lower risk of developing heart failure.
So, does that mean you should eat as much chocolate as you can?
As much as I wish that were the case, it turns out that you only need to have cocoa-rich dark chocolate once or twice a week to reap its benefits. The latter Swedish study found that those that had dark chocolate more than twice a week actually didn’t appear to have any heart-healthy benefits that those who ingested it only twice a week experienced.
Moreover, most chocolate is loaded with sugar and saturated fat-laden calories, so you really should have it only in moderation.
Now that we know eating a little chocolate is good, here are a couple of simple recipes for you to try.
Let me know if you have any healthy chocolate recipes you’d like to share. Tweet me @harleypasternak
Healthy Hot Chocolate
8 Servings; Prep/Total Time: 5 min.
2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
½ cup fat-free powdered nondairy creamer
½ cup baking cocoa
Sugar substitute equivalent to 1/2 cup sugar
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients; mix well. Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to six months. Yield: 2 ¾ cups (about 8 servings).
To prepare hot cocoa: Dissolve ½ cup mix in 1 cup boiling water; stir well. Yield: 1 serving.
Nutrition Facts: One serving (1 cup prepared hot cocoa) contains 101 calories, 1 g fat (trace saturated fat), 3 mg cholesterol, 94 mg sodium, 17 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 7 g protein.
80ml skim milk
30g skim milk powder
30g cocoa powder
7g granular sweetener
¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 egg white
Whisk 30g skim milk powder in to 80ml cold skim milk.
Warm the milk mix (do not let it boil), whisk in 30g cocoa powder and let it cool.
Mix in 7g sweetener, ¼ vanilla and extract and put to one side.
Make up the 5g gelatine according to pack instructions and stir it in to the chocolate and milk mixture. Leave in a cool place until the mixture thickens but do not let it set.
Pour the egg white into a large bowl and whisk until firm. Fold into the chocolate mixture a spoonful at a time.
Leave to set in the fridge before serving.
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