I’ll admit it, I’m a chocoholic. Totally, extremely, unashamedly so. I would never go to a meeting of Chocoholics Anonymous and confess my addiction, if there were such meetings. I bet they’d serve cocoa and brownies. You name it, if it’s chocolate, I’ll eat it – candy, cake, cookies, muffins, cupcakes, the list is long and delicious.
I was stimulated to write this post by the Story Reading Ape, who had a post on chocolate the other day, and David Prosser, who complained the chocolate added to his waistline. I won’t deny it, chocolate can do that. But it has benefits as well – see Women’s Health http://www.womenshealthmag.com/printwhlist?nid=31240ll – for the full story and the studies.
Cardiovascular benefits: One or two servings of dark chocolate each week can cut your risk for heart failure by as much as a third and lower your blood pressure and risk of heart attack and stroke by 39 percent. Most of the credit goes to flavonoids, antioxidant compounds that increase the flexibility of veins and arteries.
Weight loss: Dark chocolate is far more filling, offering more of a feeling of satiety than milk chocolate, and it lessens cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods.
Better pregnancy outcome: Women who ate chocolate daily during their pregnancy appear better able to handle stress than those who didn’t. Another study found their babies were happier and smiled more.
Diabetes benefits: Yes, you heard me. In a small study, participants who ate a bar of dark chocolate once a day for 15 days saw their potential for insulin resistance drop by nearly half. Go figure.
Reduced stress: When very anxious people ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for two weeks, their stress hormone levels decreased significantly and the metabolic effects of stress were less. I can vouch for this!
Sunburn protection: Three months of eating chocolate with high levels of flavanols should double the time your skin takes to develop the beginning of a burn from sun exposure.
Cough relief: Chocolate can quiet coughs almost as well as codeine, thanks to the theobromine it contains.
Diarrhea relief: The flavanoids in cocoa bind to a protein that regulates fluid secretion in the small intestine, so it can potentially stop the green apple two-step.
Higher intelligence. So that explains why I’m so darned smart 😉 Drinking cocoa rich in flavanols boosts blood flow to key parts of the brain for 2 to 3 hours, which could improve performance and alertness in the short term. A study of the diets of more than 2,000 people over age 70 found that those who consumed flavanol-rich chocolate scored significantly higher on cognitive tests than those who didn’t. So chocolate has anti-aging effects as well!
There are limits, of course, to chocolate intake. You should stick to chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao (or cocoa) and because of its high fat and sugar content, limit yourself to 7 ounces, or about four dark chocolate bars, a week.
Here is a recipe for low-cal brownies that can also be eaten by chocoholics who are gluten-free.
Servings: 16, Calories: 144 per serving
- 1 (14 oz) canned low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon oil
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened almond milk (or dairy, skim)
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground coffee or instant coffee
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided (Hershey’s)( you could theoretically use any kind of chocolate chips)
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a nonstick 9 x 9-inch square baking pan with baking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides.
Blend the black beans, eggs, cocoa powder, sugar, oil, almond milk, balsamic, baking soda, baking powder and coffee in the blender until smooth and pour into a bowl. Fold in 1/2 cup chocolate chips until combined. Pour the brownie batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips evenly over the top of the brownies.
Bake the brownies until a toothpick comes out clean, about 30 to 32 minutes. Allow the brownies to cool completely before slicing them into squares.