Chocolate is a gift from the universe. It is everything you could ask for in a superfood. Packed with vitamins and minerals? Check. Loaded with antioxidants? Check. A good source of healthy energy? Check. But is it delicious? CHECK!
I love chocolate, and the good news is that we can feel good about adding some dark chocolate to our diets. By dark chocolate, I mean chocolate that contains at least 70% chocolate liquor, the liquified paste made from grinding roasted cacao beans. Why so dark? To minimize the sugar, of course! Sugar is enemy number one, but chocolate without some sugar is pretty bitter. In the spirit of moderation, I make sure the number of grams of net carbs (excluding fiber) in my chocolate is less than the number of grams of fat. (Here is a link to a page on my site that lists some of my favorite bars.) Usually, if you find a bar with at least 70% cacao and no added candy, you will be close. Dark chocolate is a great substitute for the empty calories in desserts like cakes, cookies, and candy; it offers the amazing taste and creamy texture of a satisfying dessert, yet packs the nutritional punch of a superfood.
A highlight of my family's trip to Peru was the chocolate making workshop at the Chocomuseo in Cusco. There, we learned that the Inca were known to eat the fermented and roasted cacao beans right out of the shell, and legend has it that they lived long, healthy lives. Today, after the beans are ground into a paste, the cacao solids are separated from the cacao butter (the natural fat in chocolate), and they are either recombined into bars or sold separately as cacao powder and cacao butter. Because of the misguided American low-fat mindset, some participants in our workshop were tempted to skip the natural fat and add extra sugar, non-fat milk, and other ingredients to their chocolate. But remember, the Inca ate the whole cacao bean for longevity, fat and all. So should we!
Pittsburgh local, Will Clower, PhD, has written a book entitled, Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight. Don't you love the title? In Clower's book, chocolate is a microcosm for the challenges in our overall diet. If you can get your chocolate right -- real ingredients, full-fat, not too much sugar -- you can get your overall diet right, too. (Real food. More fat. Less sugar.) As Clower trains your palate to enjoy darker chocolate, he is also training your palate to expect less junk and sugar in your total meal plan.
Personally, I love salt on my chocolate. Have you tried it? There are many brands of high-quality dark chocolate with salt added! Here is one from Cusco, Peru.
Happy Thanksgiving... What is on your gratitude list? Mine includes chocolate! For more ideas about healthy, vintage food, check out this link.