By Melissa Uhles
It’s that time of year when some of us writer/parents are trying to eat healthier. Recovering from holiday splurges may have you leaving things like chocolate in your rear-view mirror.
But wait! Save yourself some squares of healthy dark chocolate and you’ll thank me later.
Am I writing this chocolate manifesto to convince myself that my daily dark chocolate habit is healthy? I plead the fifth.
Honestly, after doing the research to convince myself that dark chocolate is a super-food, I found that there has been a fair amount of research to back up my hopes.
In an article on Nutrition Myths, they mention that minerals, polyphenols, fiber and theobromine are the components responsible for chocolate/cocoa’s health benefits.
“Antioxidant effects of cocoa may directly influence insulin resistance and, in turn, reduce risk for diabetes. Further, cocoa consumption may stimulate changes in redox-sensitive signaling pathways involved in gene expression and the immune response. Cocoa can protect nerves from injury and inflammation, protect the skin from oxidative damage from UV radiation in topical preparations, and have beneficial effects on satiety, cognitive function, and mood.”
In another study cited on Science Daily: Dr. Karin Ried from University of Adelaide, Australia said:
"Flavanols have been shown to increase the formation of endothelial nitric oxide, which promotes vasodilation and consequently may lower blood pressure.”
Where can you find flavonols? Healthy dark chocolate.
In a Women's Health Magazine article, they mention the book Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight by Will Clower, Ph.D. who claims there is a benefit to eating chocolate 20 minutes before and five minutes after lunch and dinner.
This action will decrease your appetite. The article also asserts that the healthy fats in dark chocolate may help prevent insulin spikes which leads to better fat burning and staying fuller longer.
As a writer and a mom, I think the bit about improving cognitive function and mood are important. And as writers who sit too much, if chocolate can help with weight loss or maintenance that’s a big bonus.
Pursuing a writing life and parenting is rife with challenges. If something like a few squares of healthy dark chocolate can help with that, I’m all in. My sister-in-law even claims it helps with bad coughs.
If you have only eaten milk chocolate and hoped it would help, sorry to disappoint you. The health benefits come from the cocoa, not from the milk and sugar that makes up most of milk chocolate’s substance.
So super dark chocolate is where it’s at. If you don’t know where to start when you are looking to go darker...Don’t fret, I’ve done the “research” for you and am sharing my favorite bars below:
Theo is listed first because it’s my absolute favorite. It’s a luxury bar because it’s fair trade and organic which means it’s not the cheapest. But that means the cocoa farmers are paid a fair wage for their labors.
And this chocolate company is local to the Pacific Northwest (near me) so I like to support them for that reason. But let’s address flavor. The 70 percent bars are sweet and dark with a pure chocolate taste unfettered by strong liquor or vanilla flavors that some other bars have.
The dark chocolate almond with sea salt is my fave! That said, everyone’s palate is different, so I’ve listed a few other choices for you to sample.
Lindt has a 70 and 85 percent bar but the truth is, I favor their regular dark chocolate line which contains 45% cocoa, so not in the healthiest of ranges but they are tasty. I love the mint chocolate bar the best.
This chocolate is not fair trade or organic but it’s a little cheaper and you can find the brand in most grocery stores.
Ghiradelli is my go-to brand for chocolate chips when I’m baking something. The 60 percent dark chocolate chips are amazing. They also make bars with a higher percentage of cocoa, like the 72% Twilight Delight.
Green & Black also makes a variety of bars. They are popular and offer a variety of flavors. Green & Black bars are organic and ethically sourced. This brand is found in the health food section of your store or stores like Whole Foods and New Seasons.
Moonstruck Chocolate Co. is a Portland, OR based chocolatier. They have chocolate shops full of their confections and they serve hot chocolate. But you can buy the bars in some stores and online.
They are not cheap and I admit my favorite thing they make is their chocolate dipped caramels topped with sea salt which isn’t really in the “healthy” chocolate category. That said, they do also carry a few high as in 68% cocoa bars.
Chocolove is another brand carried in most health food stores and they have an 88% cocoa bar. According to their website: “Chocolove has a selection of distinctly flavored chocolate bars made with all-natural ingredients and the classic techniques of Europe's finest chocolatiers.”
If you are a writer/parent that doesn’t wanna eat a chocolate bar to get the health benefits, you could try my healthy dark chocolate smoothie recipe:
1 frozen banana
1 T of cocoa powder
¾ cup of milk
1 T peanut or other nut butter
½ T of honey or maple syrup
Blend. Drink to your health! Or as they made us say at the Bennigan’s Restaurant I worked at in my twenties, Sláinte!
What is your favorite brand of healthy dark chocolate? Tell us in the comments!
If you are amped up on chocolate and ready to supercharge your writing life, check out our ebook How to Make a Living as a Writer.
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