Get The Health Benefits of Organic Dark Chocolate without the Fat and Calories with this Fantastic Premium Dark Hot Chocolate
Chocolate and fat-loss are not two things you normally associate with each other. But with evidence mounting that chocolate, especially the dark variety, has a number of health benefits it’s suddenly become okay to include a little dark chocolate in your diet, even if your goal is fat loss.
Because chocolate is made from plants, it contains many of the same types of phytochemicals and polyphenols – including powerful flavanoids (specifically epicatechin and gallic acid) with antioxidant properties — that you find in other antioxidant powerhouses like blueberries, pomegranates, tea and red wine.
Antioxidants are believed to help the body’s cells resist damage caused by free radicals, which are formed by normal bodily processes such as breathing or environmental contaminants like cigarette smoke or environmental pollution.
In fact, in terms of total antioxidants, chocolate ranks at the top of the list.
It also contains arginine, an amino acid that helps the body produce nitric oxide (NOS), which aids in cell division, wound healing, and removal of ammonia from the body. Arginine also is a vasodialator — which means it causes blood vessel relaxation, which can decrease blood pressure. There is also some indication that arginine may improve sexual function as well, which may explain why chocolate is considered an aphrodisiac.
The health benefits of chocolate may include:
- Lower blood pressure, especially among people with hypertension
- Increased HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind of cholesterol)
- Increase glucose metabolism
- Improvements in mood
- Possible anti-cancer properties due to the high antioxidant content of dark chocolate
Over the past decade, a number of studies have provided clinical research to back up some of these health claims.
A November 2001 study conducted by Pennsylvania State University found that people with a diet high in flavonoid-rich cocoa powder and dark chocolate have slightly higher concentrations of HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) when compared with the control group. This study, however, only investigated the health effects of cocoa on 23 people.
Another study conducted at Germany’s University Hospital of Cologne found that individuals who ate 30-calorie dark chocolate doses for 18 weeks, lowered their systolic blood pressure by nearly three points and their diastolic blood pressure by almost two points, on average, over those who ate white chocolate (which doesn’t actually contain any cocoa.)
DID YOU KNOW?
The first people known to have made chocolate were the ancient cultures of Mexico and Central America. These people, including the Maya and Aztec, mixed ground cacao seeds with various seasonings to make a spicy, frothy drink.
Later, the Spanish conquistadors brought the seeds back home to Spain, where new recipes were created. Eventually, and the drink’s popularity spread throughout Europe. Since then, new technologies and innovations have changed the texture and taste of chocolate, but it still remains one of the world’s favorite flavors. (Source: The Field Museum)
Dark Chocolate Nutritional Facts
The challenge is that even dark chocolate can come with a hefty number of calories and fat.
Not exactly a dieter’s dream food.
There is hope, however, for chocolate lovers who are also trying to stay fit and lean.
Espresso Royale Premium Sweetened Dark Chocolate
I ran across this amazing dark hot chocolate mix about a year ago when I stopped in for coffee at one of my favorite semi-independent coffee shops, Espresso Royale, in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Espresso Royale operates several locations across the United States, primarily in college towns. Think of them as Starbucks, but less cookie-cutter and not bent on global coffee domination.
The chocolate is actually called Cacao Royale Premium Sweetened Dark Cocoa, and they sell four different varieties: Mint, Mayan Cocao, Almond Cocao and Aztec Cocao. All are made with organic, minimally-processed cocoa beans, which — unlike the usual Dutch-process cocoa — leaves much more of the naturally-ocurring nutrients and antioxidants of the cocoa bean intact.
Espresso Royale claims that its organic dark chocolate contains twenty times more antioxidants as tomatos, twice as many as garlic, and three times more than wine grapes. They also tout the mood-lifting benefits of moderate chocolate consumption, which have been shown to increase the release of B-endorphins, which cause feelings of peace and well-being (jury is still out on how noticable this may actually be to chocolate consumers.)
I haven’t tried the Mint, Almond or Aztec (it contains vanilla bean and cinnamon) flavors, but the Mayan dark chocolate is fantastic.
The first time I tasted it, I was surprised that it had a little spiciness to it.
I took a look at the ingredients and discovered why: it has a touch of cayenne pepper. While this might seem like an odd combination, it’s actually not. In Mexican cuisine (and in the traditional Mayan sipping chocolate), chiles and chocolate are a natural pairing (think about mole sauce, for instance.) The heat isn’t intense, it just provides a little spice that contrasts really nicely against the dark, rich, flavor of the chocolate.
I’ve served this chocolate to friends, family and people at work and the reaction is always the same: They can’t believe how rich the flavor is and the spiciness always raises eyebrows (in a good way.)
How To Serve the Premium Dark Chocolate
You can prepare this premium dark chocolate a couple of ways.
The traditional, authentic cacao method has you add 3 TBS of the cocoa to 8 oz. of hot water. For a more intense chocolate experience, you can make it into a thick, rich sipping chocolate by mixing 1/3 cup (about 5 TBS) of the dark chocolate mix with six ounces of water. They recommend topping it with whipped cream. I usually skip this for the obvious health reasons.
The mix can also be made into a delicious hot chocolate by mixing 3 TBS of the cocoa powder with 4 oz of skim milk. Not only does it give you a little protein, but it’s a much healthier alternative to the highly processed, hot chocolate mixes you find at the store. You can also use the dark chocolate mix to make mocha lattes.
But Isn’t Chocolate Fattening?
What about those calories and fat, though? Isn’t chocolate one of those diet “no-nos”?
Here’s what I love about this dark chocolate mix: a 3 TBS serving has only 60 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber and 12 grams of sugar.
And because the minimal processing leaves so many of the natural oils in place, this chocolate has a much more intense, dark chocolate flavor than most of the other brands out there. In other words, one serving of this dark chocolate is really satisfying. On top of that, you can feel comfortable knowing that you’re also getting a nice boost of anti-oxidants with that cup of chocolate heaven.
Expect to pay a little extra for this premium dark chocolate.
A 1 Lb. can of Espresso Royal premium sweetened dark chocolate is about $9 dollars. However, it has 24 servings, which makes it a bargain, in my opinion, especially because the flavor is just so good. I keep a can at home and at work for those times when I want something a little sweet after lunch or dinner. And at 60 calories per serving, it’s a great substitution for fattier, less-healthy and higher-calorie versions of chocolate found in candy bars.
If you don’t have an Espresso Royale in your town, you can order the dark chocolate online from the Espresso Royale website.
Tags: "Good" Cholesterol, Antioxidants, Arginine, Cacao, Calorie King, Chocolate, Cocoa, Dark Chocolate, Dark Chocolate Research, Epicatechin, Espresso Royale, Flavanoids, Gallic Acid, Ghirardelli, HDL Cholesterol, Health Benefits of Chocolate, Healthy Recipes, Healthy Recipes & Snacks, Healthy Snacks, Hot Chocolate, Low Calorie Snacks, Low-Fat Foods, Mayan Cocao, Mole Sauce, Organic Dark Chocolate, Pennsylvania State University, Phytochemicals, Polyphenols, The Field Museum, University Hospital of Cologne
Category: Healthy Recipes & Snacks