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Did you know moderate amounts of dark chocolate might play a role in preventing cancer? According to Sally Scroggs, MS, RD, LD at the University of Texas MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center, compounds found in chocolate act as antioxidants and have been shown to help combat cell damage that can lead to tumor growth. One of the most concentrated natural sources of these antioxidants is found in the cacao bean—the basis for all chocolate. <PREVIEWEND>
Dark chocolate, at least 70% pure cacao, is not only rich in antioxidants; it lowers blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol and is an excellent source of potassium and magnesium. Dark chocolate has also been shown to work as an antidepressant: Phyenylethylamine, a compound in cacao, raises serotonin and dopamine levels, stimulates the nervous system and even raises libido.
For centuries healers have used cacao to cure everything from tuberculosis to shortness of breath, and cacao has long been considered a symbol for love and temptation. The great Aztec ruler, Montezuma, regularly used cacao beans as currency. In 1528, when Spanish explorer Cortez left Mexico for Spain, he took with him copious amounts of gold, silver and cacao, in addition to the recipe for hot cocoa.
Because it’s still a calorie-dense food that can be high in fat, we shouldn’t give ourselves permission to eat as much dark chocolate as we want. However a daily square, or one ounce, of dark cacao chocolate may be a good addition to our diet. Savor it. Let it melt in your mouth and think about what you’re eating. If you’re a breast cancer survivor, consider avoiding most of your favorite name brands even if they “support breast cancer awareness.” They’re not only low in cacao—antioxidants—but higher in calories, sugar and unhealthy fats.
Look for chocolate with at least a 70% or higher cacao content. Since 70% cacao doesn’t contain sugar and milk, like most traditional chocolate bars, dark cacao chocolate may take a bit of getting used to, but if you’re like me, you’ll soon find it decadently delicious. My favorite brand is Alter Eco Fair Trade’s™ 85% dark chocolate. It’s organic, gluten free, soy free, has no emulsifiers and can be found at many Whole Foods. Since Alter Eco Fair Trade™ buys directly from farming families in Bolivia, and pays them fair prices, we are also supporting a better way of life for them and their communities.
Did I tell you James prefers brown and white foods: steak, coffee, vanilla ice cream and chocolate? The most surprising thing about James and chocolate…? He loves the 73% cacao! I know! Mister slice and bake chocolate chip cookie man loves dark cacao, although I don’t think he heard me a little while ago when I said it was full of caffeine. It’s 8pm, and he’s had two squares of dark chocolate. Whoa… Zip, zip… There he goes, out the door for a walk. Wonder where all that energy came from? Duh! Hope he gets to sleep tonight.
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