Health benefits of chocolate


For Valentine’s Day, you may have gotten a box of chocolates. Hopefully your sweetheart was thoughtful of your health and bought you a box of dark chocolates. As you are finishing off the last one in the box, don’t feel guilty as dark chocolate has so many health benefits. Chocolate contains antioxidants that protect your body and promote good health. Dark chocolate, in fact, has more antioxidants than one serving of blueberries, green tea or red wine. The antioxidants in chocolate contain high levels of cell-protecting compounds, and just two tablespoons of natural cocoa have more antioxidants than four cups of green tea, one cup of blueberries and one and half glass of red wine!

A study of 470 elderly men was tracked for a period of 15 years and found that the men who consumed the most cocoa-containing products were half as likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those who consumed the least amount of chocolate. “In addition, they were half as likely to die from any cause as those who ate the least cocoa-or-chocolate-containing foods.”

The cocoa tree can be grown in Hawaii.

Plague causes arterial blockage. Baby aspirin is often prescribed to prevent heart attacks for its anti-clogging properties. In a trial study, baby aspirin was compared to drinking a cocoa beverage, and it was found that the cocoa’s effect was similar to baby aspirin’s effects, with the best results when baby aspirin and cocoa was taken together.

The antioxidant flavanols improve blood flow and keep blood vessels healthy and aid in circulation. For diabetics, these same flavanols may help to restore normal function in cells to better control blood sugar. However, following your doctors advise and moderation is important to manage your diabetes.

These same flavanols have been also shown to suppress compounds that create overactive responses to the body’s immune system and cause diseases such as arthritis.

Flavanols in dark chocolate and cocoa deactivate unstable molecules in our blood called free radicals, and they aggravate our LDL, or bad cholesterol, which leads to clogged arteries. Flavanols also have shown to stimulate the production of nitric oxide, a gas inside artery walls that relaxes and widens arteries, which allows for easy flow of blood and reduces blood pressure.

When rats were given flavonoid antioxidants similar to those found in dark chocolate, researchers found they performed better on memory-testing water maze tests. Another study found that dark chocolate improved memory in mice with previous brain problems.

So a couple of weeks ago, our wine club, tasting, sipping like lab rats, had a chocolate and wine tasting. Port was paired with 54 percent cocoa; Cabernet Sauvignon paired with 55 percent cocoa; Pinot Noir with 56 percent cocoa; Merlot with 58 percent cocoa; Syrah with 61percent cocoa, and Zinfandel with 72 percent cocoa.

We ordered a Wine Lover’s Chocolate Pairing Kit of five dark chocolate combinations from Bridgebrands Chocolate in San Francisco. The results were very interesting as certain wines work very well with dark chocolates, and I must say my favorite was the Taylor 10-year-old port with the 54 percent cocoa dark chocolate and my second favorite was the pinot noir with the 56 percent cocoa.

Remember the M&M’s advertisement about “Melts in your mouth and not in your hands”? Chocolate starts melting at 94 degrees, so if your hands are at normal temperature, at 98.6 degrees, it would not take long for a piece of chocolate to melt in your hands.

You must treat chocolate delicately as it is very sensitive. When melted, it is supposed to be smooth and satiny, but even a drop of water will cause it to “seize” and become grainy and lumpy. A double boiler that is absolutely dry and high enough that no water from the bottom pot can possibly be splashed into the chocolate is essential. Do not heat chocolate in a pot without the water as dark chocolate is ruined after 120 degrees and milk and white chocolate becomes thick and muddy after 110 degrees.

Seized chocolate cannot be salvaged but can be chopped up and added to a brownie or cookie dough. The silkiness will never be recovered. The same holds true for chocolate that is overheated and could be melted to add added to hot milk for hot chocolate.

Foodie Bites

This week the Bamboo Hale is featuring the foods of the Caribbean. Call 934-2591 for reservations, as it can fill up. The first year students have found that Japanese dishes are popular so have continued to add that to the menu in The Cafeteria. Call the students at 934-2559 to find out what their specials are.

The second annual Ulu Festival is this Saturday at Hooulu Lahai at Kia O Ka La Public Charter School at Pualaa, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Sam Choy’s Poke Contest, to be held March 17, is featuring new competition categories, which include non-seafood and sushi style pokes. Deadline for entry is March 8, and forms are posted at SamChoys-KeauhouPokeContest.org.

Please feel free to e-mail me at wilson.audrey@hawaiiantel.net if you have a question. Bon appetit until next week.

 

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