What is the best health tip when eating chocolate?

Who would have thought that it would be a health tip to recommend eating chocolate?

But yes, scientists today are confirming that there really are health benefits to eating chocolate.

In fact, using chocolate as a nutritional health food has long been popular. In the ancient civilisations of Meso-America, it was extensively used as a health and energy drink with aphrodisiac qualities, and consumed within sacred ceremonies to enhance strength and focus.

It should be no surprise then that when chocolate consumption was spreading through Europe via the clergy, it was used as a fasting aid. While also chocolate drinks were given to sickly aristocratic patients to speed their recovery in the Spanish royal court.

Today we can test these ideas - and the results are fascinating - a great health tip for all of us who eat and enjoy chocolate today.

One of the most important health tips to remember when eating chocolate is to check which gourmet chocolate you love eating!

That is with good quality dark chocolate, not only are the cacao beans used in the manufacture of chocolate, better quality beans themselves, but all the ingredients used in gourmet chocolate production will be better quality too. The cocoa beans will also be traceable from farm to bar or homemade recipe.

Adding vegetable fats to foods is an increasing cause for concern amongst health professionals, with hydrogenated fats at the top of the avoidance list. This means that low quality chocolate made with such trans-fats, and containing no cocoa butter, are a very poor health choice indeed.

Not only can you make all your chocolate recipes healthier at a stroke, but you will also make delicious chocolaty recipes too, using gourmet quality chocolate. A yummy health tip!

It's all part of the checking ingredients on labels that we all need to do, a great health tip, when eating chocolate or anything else for that matter.

Fats and sugars are the main culprits for giving chocolate a bad reputation. Good quality chocolate uses only cocoa butter, and with quality dark chocolate, there is a lower level of sugar too. The natural antibacterial properties of cacao beans are then not counteracted by the added sugar.

For a healthy low fat take on chocolate recipes on this site see low fat dessert recipes including cheesecake and rich chocolate fudge cake. Wanting a low fat brownie recipe? Go to low fat brownie recipe page.

Milk and white chocolate offer a higher protein level than dark chocolate because of the high milk content. For example, white chocolate provides up to 270mg of calcium per 100g.

In fact, quality chocolate has a low glycaemic index, (49 for dark and 45 for milk), which means you feel full for longer; chocolate is a food that keeps your blood glucose levels steady.

You may be surprised to know what a long list of substances chocolate actually contains. The cacao bean is one of the most complex foods to have undergone nutritional analysis. There are over 400 different substances within the cacao bean. Some of them include:

· Flavonoids increasingly considered useful in maintaining a healthy heart.

· Antioxidants, which the body uses to protect cells.

· Stearic acid, which is believed to lower cholesterol. The natural fats within cocoa butter are either neutral or are the cholesterol lowering kind.

· Levels of phenylethylamine are high in chocolate. This chemical helps with increasing the heart rate and stimulates serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline, all feel-good mood enhancers. It is thought to be one of the chemicals responsible for the chocolate-love association.

· Caffeine, a stimulant for the central nervous system, hence perhaps why many students eat chocolate while taking their exams, and find it helps!

· Theobromine, a similar stimulant to caffeine, stimulates the brain and muscles and reduces blood pressure.

Chocolate may be more beneficial for keeping a heart healthy than red wine, while dark chocolate has a higher level of antioxidants than green tea. Antioxidants help the body to rid itself of free radicals and boost the immune system.

Now, which one would you rather take medicinally as a health tip?

And then - chocolate also contains useful amounts of important vitamins and minerals:

· Magnesium; - not only do cacao beans increase levels of magnesium, but eating quantities of quality chocolate regularly can even help improve the absorption of magnesium.

· Iron, which comes in a form where 93% is in a directly usable form for the body. The oxalic acid in cacao bean bonds with the iron and calcium to make it bio-available.

· A variety of vitamins, including A1, B1, B2, C, D and E.

And lastly, cocoa butter itself - a mysterious complex fat; an expensive product, highly prized in the cosmetics industry for skin and hair products.

How about a quality chocolate face pack?

Sounds good enough to lick off! The most delicious health tip and beauty tip there is!

It's one of those amazing things that today we can actually check out that the Olmecs, Maya and Aztecs were on the right track after all, a health tip thousands of years old!

Interested in further reading? See "A chocolate a day keeps the doctor away", by Dr. J Ashton and Suzy Ashton, Souvenir Press, London 2002.

Wanting a low fat brownie recipe? Go to low fat brownie recipe page.

Return from chocolate health tip to best chocolate recipes online home page.

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