Friday, June 11, 2010
Chocolate - A Necessary Storage Item!
I have a cookbook called The Healthy Kitchen by Dr. Andrew Weil (M.D.) and Rosie Daley. I have several of Dr. Weil's books. He is the author of 8 Weeks to Optimum Health, Spontaneous Healing, and many others. He's been a real pioneer in getting the Western Medicine world to merge somewhat with natural healing. In the cookbook, he shares some information about chocolate that I haven't heard or read anywhere else. I've followed his work for many years and trust what he says. He added this little note in on page 301:
Most people love chocolate; many are passionate about it. Some say dessert is either chocolate or something other than chocolate. But this food of the gods, enjoyed as a sacred drink by natives of ancient Mexico and Meso-America, has gotten a bad reputation in our times. Considered a "guilty pleasure," it has been demonized because of its fat content and is said to have no place in a good diet. Some health-food producers have even come up with a wretched imitation of it--carob--that they use to make "nutritious" fake chocolate candies, cakes, and cookies. In fact, chocolate not only beats carob hands down in both the taste and health categories, it has many attributes that recommend it for inclusion in an optimum diet.
Cocoa butter, the fat in chocolate, turns out not to be so bad. Although it is a saturated fat, the body turns it into monounsaturated fat, processing it like olive oil. Chocolate appears to be neutral, at worst, in regard to cardiovascular health and may actually lower serum cholesterol. In addition, chocolate has strong antioxidant activity, equivalent to that of red wine and green tea. It is a stimulant because it contains theobromine, a relative of caffeine, but for unknown reasons, it is also, for many people, a rapid-acting antidepressant.
The best form of chocolate from a health standpoint is high-quality, plain, dark chocolate. I say "high-quality" because cheaper brands contain less actual chocolate, often replacing expensive cocoa butter with unhealthful hydrogenated vegetable oils. The first ingredient on a bar of high-quality chocolate should be chocolate--usually indicated as "chocolate liquor," "cacao," or "cocoa." It should not be sugar. The brands I like best contain 70 percent cocoa. (Bitter baking chocolate is 100 percent cocoa; more than 80 percent is too bitter for most people to enjoy.)
I say "plain" because chocolate candies often contain butter and cream, sources of highly saturated animal fats, as well as other ingredients much less good for us than the natural constituents of cocoa beans. And I say "dark" because milk chocolate contains much less cocoa and more butterfat and sugar.
When I want a sweet, I usually go for a piece (or chunk) of high-quality dark chocolate, which I regard as a pleasure, but not one I need to feel guilty about. I often serve dark chocolate with fruit as a dessert (the recipe follows) and keep dark chocolate sorbet in the feezer. In moderation, these treats are not fattening, provide important nutrients, are perfectly fine for people following low-carbohydrate diets--and they certainly add to the pleasure of eating.
A recipe for Dark Chocolate With Fruit follows. There you have it: theobromine - not caffeine. (Maybe it has both, he doesn't specifically say.) But that makes sense to me as to why chocolate often helps to calm - which caffeine doesn't do.
For my storage, I buy the large bars of dark chocolate, usually 70-something percent. And then to keep them fresh, about once a year I find it necessary to take them out of the storage room, eat them - slowly - and buy fresh chocolate for the storage! There are SO many great benefits to being prepared!