February is upon us, and this month we acknowledge the American Heart Month, the Chocolate Lover’s month and Valentine’s Day! It’s a great month to appreciate the good things in life, like abundant good health, strong relationships, and delicious chocolate! American’s eat 2.8 billion pounds or 11 pounds of chocolate per person in a year. The best news about chocolate and cocoa, ideally organic and non-GMO types, is that they positively impact your heart, your mood, and your relationships! Chocolate is linked to 37% lower risk of heart disease and appears to protect against high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes – all of which are risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Furthermore, it has phenylethylamine “the love drug” that arouses feelings of attraction and excitement associated with the initial euphoria of falling in love. This chemical also acts as an anti-depressant by combining with dopamine a naturally produced neurotransmitter in the brain. The amino acid Tryptophan in chocolate is used by the brain to make the neurotransmitter serotonin which is noted for creating feelings of happiness and wellbeing. In addition to being a heart-healthy, mood enhancing food source, chocolate’s antioxidants are worth noting.
The darker the chocolate and the less processed – the higher antioxidant levels. Chocolate comes from cocoa beans which are rich in antioxidant flavonoids called flavanols. Studies have shown individuals with high levels of flavonoids have a lower risk of heart disease, lung cancer, prostate cancer, asthma and type 2 diabetes. Penn State University showed that diets rich in cocoa powder and dark chocolate showed lower oxidation levels of bad LDL cholesterol, and higher blood antioxidant levels, and higher levels of good HDL cholesterol. As with all good things, moderation is the key to good health. The recommended amount is an ounce of dark chocolate a day. Select smart, wise ways to consume chocolate and always balance it with a healthy dose of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.
Smart heart-healthy chocolate choices to consider include, making your own cocoa powder bars and smoothies with a nutritional product like Juice Plus chocolate complete powder. The only protein powder backed by scientific research supporting the numerous health benefits. This power gives you a health-enhancing dose of antioxidants from over 30 organic, non-GMO, dehydrated fruits and vegetables which provides you with a powerhouse of nutrition that supports every inch of your mind, and body.
One of the healthiest chocolate bar treats to share starting this month consists of – 1 mashed banana, 1 ½ cups dry oatmeal, 2 tbs ground flax seed, 2-4 scoops chocolate Juice Plus, ¼ cup organic peanut butter, ¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut, ¼ cup coconut oil, ¼ cup raisins, ¼ cup water, ½ cup organic dark chocolate chips. Mix all ingredients and line an 8×8 inch pan with foil. Spread mixture in pan. Melt chocolate on the stove and drizzle over bar mixture. Place pan in the freezer until solid. Thaw slightly to serve. Another treat to try is a chocolate smoothie with a twist: 1 scoop chocolate Juice Plus+ complete powder, ½ frozen banana, ½ cup almond milk, 2 tsp organic peanut butter, ¼ cup water, 2 tsp unsweetened organic cocoa powder, and ¼ tsp cocoa nibs. Mix in a blender until blended, add nibs after mixing.
When we consider heart-healthy ways to consume the foods we love we feel less deprived which leads to us sticking with better, health-wise food choices. Moreover, making smarter nutritional decisions are further supported by us feeling better, looking better and performing better. Given the right nutrients, our bodies handle stress better, recover more quickly from illness and have the tools needed to fight disease. So, this month you can have your chocolate and your health. Bon appetite!