The start of February brought the end of my clinical rotations and the start of foodservice! For the next 4 weeks I will be at an independent senior living community where my partner, Mavis, and I planning a theme meal with for around 150 residents! With Valentine’s Day still fresh in the mind and March being National Chocolate Month we declared our theme of choice:
Chocolate, Chocolate, and more Chocolate.
We're Calling it a Chocolate Extravaganza!
We will have both savory and sweet dishes all centered around chocolate!
In honor of the upcoming theme meal I thought it would be fun to delve into the health benefits of chocolate.
Not only is chocolate absolutely delicious it happened to have great nutritional value!
The medicinal uses for chocolate stem back to the Inca’s who considered it the drink of the god’s. Indeed the name of the cocoa tree:
originated from the Greek words theo (God) and Broma (drink).
Today we know that chocolate contains phytochemicals that provide protective antioxidant properties in the human body. In fact, cocoa and chocolate have the highest concentration flavonoids, plant based pigments that act as antioxidants, in commonly consumed foods. The predominant flavonoids in chocolate are called epicatechin and catechin. These flavonoids have an oxidative effect to combat free radicals, which protect the body from cardiovascular disease. They have also been shown to help the body use insulin more efficiently, to aid in controlling blood sugars, and to lower bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood. Rough translation: chocolate is good for your heart.
It is important to keep in mind that not all chocolates are created equal in terms of their flavonoid content and overally healthful impact on the body. Cocoa naturally has a bitter taste from the Flavonols and often when it is processed it looses some of its health benefits. When your looking for healthy chocolate avoid Dutch processed chocolate because antioxidants are lost during the process. Also, the capacity for flavonols to raise the antioxidant level in the blood in diminished when it is combined with milk, which is why dark chocolate is getting all the health attention. Milk chocolate and white chocolate aren’t going to be much help to the heart. Finally, if you eat too much chocolate the added calories, sugar, and fat may negate the health benefits so moderation is key…easier said than done…I know.