Chocolate please!

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IMG_20141021_164239_405                                                                                                             The health benefits of chocolate are an excellent reason to indulge daily, not to mention the numerous ways that you can use it while cooking. In it’s purest form, it is bitter. It is only after a fermenting, roasting and mild sweetening, that the raw form of cacao becomes cocoa and then the luscious chocolate that we know and love.

Cacao is a bean the comes from the cacao tree. The beans are found inside football shaped pods that grow on the limbs and trunk of the tree.

Cocoa has been used medicinally for it’s health benefits throughout history. Even more recently it has been shown to decrease blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of stroke, and improve blood vessel health. Decreasing your LDL (bad),  and increasing your HDL (good) cholesterol level, helps improve your cardiovascular health. Cocoa is rich in flavonoids (antioxidants), which has also been found to lower the risk of diabetes.

Mood is elevated by the anti-depressant properties when an increase of dopamine and seratonin are released. No wonder marketing professionals make chocolate seem so seductive, It is!

Chocolate in it’s healthiest form has little to no sugar or added ingredients. When you buy chocolate for your health, try to stick to 70% dark or above.

IMG_20141021_164304_912                                                                                                            One of my favorite ways to indulge in 100% pure cocoa, is to mix 1/2 Tbsp into 8oz plain Greek yogurt, sprinkle in some cinnamon powder and sweeten lightly with honey or agave and serve. Sprinkle pure cocoa on top of banana slices, coated with  peanut butter for a snack. If you are looking for a way to change up a pot of red chili, try adding a couple tablespoons of cocoa in for some extreme depth. This goes well with a touch more heat from your choice of spicy seasoning as well.                                                                                   In fitness, Bob

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