Carolyn Bell, RDN – Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Current research indicates dark chocolate may help protect against cardiovascular disease. Chocolate is made from the cocoa bean, which is rich in a plant nutrient called flavonoids – current research shows flavonoids may be linked to heart health. Other foods containing flavonoids are berries, bananas, citrus fruits, and green and black teas.
Flavonoids help protect plants from cellular damage, and are found in a variety of foods such as fruits and vegetables. Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid found in chocolate – and research indicates flavanols may have antioxidant properties, and other influences on vascular health; lowering blood pressure, and increasing blood flow to the brain.
Many chocolate manufacturers are looking for methods to retain higher levels of flavanols. A higher percentage of cacao (cocoa) means higher flavanols (usually found in dark chocolates). Read food ingredient labels and like all foods, eat in moderation. The more processing chocolate undergoes, the less flavanols, and perhaps sugar and fat calories have been added. Enjoy the health benefits of dark chocolate, but don’t forget other foods high in flavanols, too – fruits, vegetables and teas!
Recipe for chocolate containing flavanols:
- 1 cup pitted dates, soak for 10 minutes, then drain
- ½ cup almonds
- ½ cup walnuts
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
- 2 tablespoons flax seeds
- 2 tablespoons cocoa nibs
Place the almonds in a food processor, and blend until smooth. Add the walnuts, cocoa powder, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and cocoa nibs, and blend for 10 seconds. Next, add the dates to the mixture in the food processor and blend until the mixture begins to hold together. Remove the ball of mixture and pinch off enough to make into 12-14 small balls, and place on wax paper to refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- Makes 12-14 servings – 80 calories per serving.
- Recipe may be kept in an airtight container, in the refrigerator or freezer, for up to 2 months.