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Dark Chocolate and Cashews – A Healthy Combination

 

Many of you know of my love for cashews, but what you may not know is that I love dark chocolate almost as much. Fortunately, over the past several years evidence has been accumulating suggesting that a little bit of dark chocolate might be good for us, especially our hearts. Phytochemicals called flavonols found in cocoa have been found to lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, increase HDL cholesterol, reduce inflammation and clotting, as well as lower blood pressure. The latest study published online May 31, 2012, in the BMJ (British Medical Journal), confirmed the positive effect dark chocolate has  on blood pressure and predicted a reduction in both fatal and non-fatal heart attacks and strokes as a result of daily, long term consumption of dark chocolate.

Before rushing out and buying a big bar of Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate, don’t forget the “halo effect”. As healthy as dark chocolate sounds, at 150 calories per ounce you can easily get too much of a good thing. Gaining weight would certainly undermine the beneficial effects.  A half an ounce to an ounce per day might be a reasonable amount to start with. To get the healthy flavonols, look for varieties of dark chocolate that are 70% cocoa or higher. The higher the better, as the percent of cocoa increases the amount of beneficial phytochemicals increases and the amount of sugar decreases. Another “benefit” of the higher cocoa percentage bars is that honestly they don’t taste as good, making it easier to limit yourself to an appropriate amount.

Fruit dipped in dark chocolate is another delicious way to incorporated it into your diet. Most of you have had strawberries dipped in chocolate, but bananas, peaches, apples and other fruit work just as well. Chef Jen recommends using a double boiler (a pan or bowl that fits snugly over a pan of boiling water) to melt the chocolate. I might give it try tonight. Hey, I wonder how cashews covered in dark chocolate would be.

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