Chocolate Theobroma cacao
Type: Nourishing tonic
Properties: Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, diuretic, euphoric, slightly stimulating
Part used: The fermented seeds of the fruit of a small tree.
Preparation and Dose: Cocoa beans are processed into cocoa solids and cocoa butter. The antioxidants are in the solids. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the healthier it is. White chocolate has zero solids. Both chocolate bars and hot chocolate are beneficial. Cocoa is usually combined with a sweetener, or spices such as cinnamon; traditionally, it was combined with psychoactive plants such as psilocybin. The effective dose is .75-3.5 ounces daily.
Cocoa contains: Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, E, pantothenic acid, carotenes; calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, zinc; flavonoids, flavanols, protein, fiber.
Cautions: “To date, no incidents of overdosing on cacao are known.”
The secret is out: One of the best ways to keep your heart healthy is by eating dark chocolate.
Really? Really! Chocolate is good for your heart and good for your mood.
Seriously good for your mood. Chocolate heightens awareness and induces an energetic calm. Consumption of chocolate in any form affects brain chemicals: It triggers a release of endorphin, the feel-good hormone. It augments dopamine, the hormone of sexual pleasure. It boosts serotonin, increasing sensory input. Chocolate contains a substance named anandamide, which means the nectar of bliss. “The brain on chocolate is the brain in love.”
The data is “remarkably consistent” about chocolate’s ability to protect the cardiovascular system, lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and increase insulin sensitivity. Chocolate is loaded with heart healthy phytochemicals and antioxidants. In fact, ounce for ounce, chocolate has the most antioxidants of any edible plant. (The runner-up is pecans, and third place is held by red wine.)
The plentiful flavonoids in chocolate are more powerful than vitamin C in limiting oxidation of LDL. They work overtime to protect all the
lipids in the blood from free-radical damage. The cocoa flavonoids catechin, epicatechin, and procyanidin help prevent blood clots, reduce inflammation, and lower total cholesterol. A metastudy (of 24 prior studies) found that the flavonoids in cocoa lower blood
pressure, reduce LDL cholesterol, increase HDL cholesterol, improve blood flow, and counter insulin resistance.
Procyanidins, special flavonoids that keep the blood flowing freely, are in great supply in chocolate. They thin the blood, like aspirin, and help reduce the risk of stroke, but don’t increase the risk of internal hemorrhage as aspirin does.
The abundance of tetramers found in chocolate curbs oxidation of the blood vessel walls, short circuits the build-up of atherosclerotic plaque, and help keep blood pressure low by keeping the blood vessels relaxed.
I’m sure you’ve heard of polyphenols, those heart-healthy, heart-protective substances found so profusely in red wine, green tea, and, you guessed it, chocolate. (20 grams or 2/3 of an ounce of chocolate has the same amount of polyphenols as one 5 ounce glass of red wine.)
How does chocolate lower blood pressure? Both the theobromine and the caffeine in chocolate are proven diuretics; and diuretics lower blood pressure. Plus, theobromine relaxes smooth muscles, such as those in the walls of the arteries, thus lowering blood pressure.
Other phytochemicals found in chocolate (there are hundreds of them) prevent blood platelet fragmentation and boost HDL cholesterol.
The lowest effective daily dose is ¾ of an ounce of the darkest chocolate you can enjoy. British doctors believe we could stop taking low-dose aspirin if we would eat our chocolate faithfully.
Doses of up to 3.4 ounces a day have also been used, without weight gain, if calories in the diet remain stable.
According to research done at Harvard Medical School in 2013, older adults had improved blood flow to the specific brain regions devoted to memory after drinking two cups of hot cocoa daily.
Traditional healers in MesoAmerica, the home of cocoa, used cocoa beans mixed with maize and herbs to treat those with heart palpitations and shortness of breath.
Good news for those watching their weight. A study of nearly a thousand adults, average age 57, 68% male/32% female, average BMI of 28. Those who consumed chocolate more often than twice a week had lower BMIs than those who ate less, even though they did not eat less or exercise more. It was the frequency of the chocolate eating, not the amount, that conferred the benefit.
Best Easy Hearty Hot Chocolate
Per serving, combine
1 heaping tablespoon organic, non-Dutched cocoa powder,
1-3 teaspoons organic raw sugar,
a dash of powdered allspice,
and a big pinch of cinnamon powder
In a saucepan. While stirring, add enough boiling water to liquefy.
Keep stirring while you add 1 cup milk per person.
Turn on fire. Stand there and stir until it is hot and steamy. Serve immediately.