It's hard to find someone that doesn't like chocolate. In our online accountability groups that we run we are always talking to people about how and what kinds of chocolate can be a part of a healthy diet. Yeah there is a way and we will get to that.
When the candy industry got their hands on the delicious cocoa bean they figured out a way to take a superfood and turn it into something super dangerous. They stretch the cocoa powder so far and add so much milk and sugar to their concoctions that chocolate as most people know it becomes a sweet treat. That is where the danger comes in to play. Sugar is addictive. (1) Consuming it leads to consuming more of it and your tastes begin to become altered. The amount of sugar it takes to sense "sweet" increases. (2)
This all equates to you needing tremendous amounts of willpower to control the quantity of eating these types of food. Guess what... that's a losing battle!
I mentioned above that the cocoa bean is a superfood! Let's talk about that and how you can choose chocolate that improves your health and doesn't lead to the damaging effects of consuming the candy industry's version of chocolate.
7 Health Benefits of Consuming Chocolate
1. Nutrient Dense - Chocolate from a micronutrient standpoint is very dense. It provides a large amount of iron, magnesium, manganese, and copper. It also provides potassium, zinc and selenium. The fiber content of dark chocolate is one of the best benefits of consuming it. Fiber is a missing piece is a lot of people's diets and important for the health of your gut and blood sugar.
2. Controls Blood Sugar - One of the secret ingredients in chocolate that doesn't show up on a nutrition label is a phytonutrient called flavanol, particularly epicatechin. This compound has been shown to improve a person's insulin sensitivity. Therefore making your insulin work more effeciently and regulate blood sugar better.
3. Lowers Blood Pressure - Staying on the flavanol theme, this amazing little phytonutrient also increases the levels of nitric oxide in the blood which relaxes your blood vessels and therefore lowers blood pressure. (3)
4. Source of Antioxidants - You've maybe heard of the ORAC rating, it is a way to measure the antioxidant power of different compounds. Guess where chocolate lands when measured... yup you guessed it is right at the top of the list with some other amazing foods. Antioxidants are important, especially in whole food form, to regulate the levels of free radicals in our bodies. The less free radical damage that occurs in our bodies the lower overall inflammation throughout our body and increased health. (4)
5. Improves Cholesterol - Dark chocolate has been shown to increase the amount of "good" HDL cholesterol. It has also been shown to limit the amount of LDL cholesterol that oxidizes. This is due to the previous point about it being a powerful antioxidant. LDL cholesterol isn't inherently bad, our bodies actually need more of it than HDL. The problems with cholesterol arise when the ratio of HDL/LDL gets out of whack and/or it becomes oxidized and therefore inflamatory. (5)
6. Improve Brain Function - Better brain??? Yes please! Dark chocolate can improve brain function from a couple different aspects. First, blood flow, as mentioned above dark chocolate and it's powerful flavanols help with overall cardiovascular health and therefore better blood flow. A couple other powerful components in dark chocolate include theobromine and caffiene. These compounds are stimiulants that have both been shown to improve brain function. (6)
7. Improved Skin - Those same flavanols that we've talked about also help with protecting your skin from UV rays. This doesn't mean you should just lather up with melted dark chocolate instead of sunscreen, but it's fun to know that that treat you have can help in this area too. (7)
Hopefully I've made a case for why and how chocolate can be can considered a health food. Don't stop here though and go grab the nearest Hershey bar thinking you are improving your health. Let's talk about how you can select chocolate that actually improves your health and doesn't harm you.
Selecting the Right Kind of Chocolate
The candy industry has a pretty good hold on chocolate production. This past summer we made a stop in Hershey, PA to check out Chocolate World!
Chocolate World should probably be renamed Sugar World. By weight I'm guessing a standard Hershey bar contains more sugar than cocoa. We had to search pretty hard to find some true dark chocolate in the big Hershey store. Even the dark chocolate we found was less than desirable according to what I consider healthy.
Here is a simple equation that I created that you can use determine whether or not the chocolate you are eating is health food and will provide all the benefits listed above, somewhere in the middle, or straight up candy and the negative effects outweigh the benefits.
In general the higher the percentage of cacao the healthier the chocolate. In order to get into that moderately healthy category you should be looking for at least 60% cacao but most likely you will need 70%. Once you start getting over 80% that is typically when your chocolate starts becoming health food.
One thing to close with is that consuming chocolate can improve your health if you choose the right kind but it is also a calorie dense food since most of it's calories come from fat. Don't take this information as an opportunity to go hog wild on dark chocolate thinking that because it is healthy it can't affect your weight. A typical chocolate treat for us is usually 2 squares from a dark chocolate bar or about 1/2 of what a serving size is supposed to be according to the packaging. This is enough to give us the health benefits along with our chocolate fix without consuming a huge amount of calories.
We hope this information helps you understand chocolate a bit more and how it can and should be part of a healthy diet. We encourage you to share it if you think it is something your friends need to hear.
1. Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake
2. Reduced dietary intake of simple sugars alters perceived sweet taste intensity but not perceived pleasantness.
3. How do dietary flavanols improve vascular function? A position paper.
4. The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide
5. Plasma LDL and HDL cholesterol and oxidized LDL concentrations are altered in normo- and hypercholesterolemic humans after intake of different levels of cocoa powder.
6. The effect of flavanol-rich cocoa on the fMRI response to a cognitive task in healthy young people.
7. Long-term ingestion of high flavanol cocoa provides photoprotection against UV-induced erythema and improves skin condition in women.
We are currently parked in a campground in central Texas between Houston and San Antonio. There isn't anything super fancy about this park or its location. One upside though is that there are pecan trees everywhere and it's pecan season! If I had the patience I could easily fill up a 5 gallon bucket in less than hour. We've been snacking on them a bit but decided to try to use them the other morning in combination with a new pancake recipe.
If you follow us you know that we love our pancakes and they are a weekend tradition. You also know we need gluten free options since I can no longer eat anything glutenous! I wouln't consider these pancakes health food but they are close. The flax in them provide a ton of Omega 3 fats which are super good for you. You also get a decent dose of protein and fiber too!
The sauce/sryup that I made is the thing that turns a fairly healthy pancake into a bit of a treat! Enjoy it though because it's delicious and a much better way to enjoy pancakes then use a boxed premix.
Ladies if you need a way to get your husbands to eat a salad, start with this one. I mean what guy doesn't like steak, then you combine that with mushrooms and gorgonzola cheese, it's a win! The asparagus and tomatoes are there as a way to sneak in some more veggies! The dressing is super simple and adds a fun punch of flavor. It's crisp, it's herbacious, it's delicious.
We would love to know if you try this one out! Leave us a comment below. If you love it don't forget to Pin It so you can save it for later!
One thing we really encourage a lot of our clients to work on is to be more veggies, especially greens. One of the easiest ways to get more greens in is to eat more salads. We love our salads, and try to it one 5 days a week. We aren't just talking about a little side salad with dinner. We are talking full on, stuff my face and stomach salad that is loaded with greens and veggies. We see a lot of people that grasp that concept which is awesome, but then they douse all those quality veggies with some low quality salad dressing.
A couple of tips if you do buy store bought dressings;
If the idea of eating more veggies and cleaning up your eating sounds like something you would be interested in, we will be hosting a special group on Facebook in a little over a week. The group will revolve around having a salad a day for week. We will provide recipes like the one above and some more tips on how to put together an amazingly healthy salad. If you are interested click on the image below and RSVP.
Laura loves curry!!! So what do you do when your wife loves curry, you make curry for her. Sometimes I'm all about doing things from absolute scratch. In the case of curry, it would be fantastic to toast my own spices then grind them fresh and use my mortal and pestle to make a paste. But let's be honest that takes time and energy.
Instead we found a pre-made curry paste, added in some fresh veggies and fish and a couple other ingredients and we had a delicious dish in under 30 minutes. This was my first time ever using fish in a curry and it turned out pretty great. If you are completely scared of fish or don't like the flavor, too bad, try it anyways. I think you will be surprised that the curry is the dominate flavor and not the fish, so it is a good way to give fish a try.
Feel free to add your favorite veggies to this dish. You don't have to use what we used, we just had these on hand and that is why we love curry dishes so much, because they are so versatile. You could also sub out the quinoa for rice or even zoodles or sweet potato noodles if you want to go grain free. The possibilities are endless. We hope you enjoy this one as much as we did.
I think I first heard of Danielle Walker on one the podcasts I listen to on a regular basis. She has a pretty incredible story of beating an auto immune disease, ulcerative colitis, through dietary changes she made. It's a great story that really shows the power of food. I would encourage to check out her blog or book Against All Grain.
Danielle has a recipe for this same dish that was my inspiration for making this. It was super simple and even Eli ate it. You can pretty easily scale the spice up or down depending on if you are feeding kids or you just don't like spicy food. Eating healthy food doesn't have to be flavorless which I think a lot of people fear. You just need a well equipped spice cabinet. You could easily sub out the ground beef in this recipe for ground turkey, shredded chicken or beef if you happen to have those on hand instead.
Today we're sharing our favorite guacamole recipe with you :) No time for small talk...because we know all you really wanted was the recipe...so here you go!!!
3 ripe avocados (mashed)
Juice of two limes
3 jalapeños with seeds cut out and chopped finely
1 med red onion
1 bunch of cilantro chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp garlic powder
Tbsp of olive oil
Tbsp of Apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper
1/2 tsp of cayenne (optional)
Throw it all into a bowl. Mash avocados first and then stir all the other ingredients in. You could also use a food processor if you like it nice and creamy and not chunky.
The Cook & The Coach
Healthy is a LIFESTYLE.