I love chocolate! The higher the cocoa content the better (well almost — 72% cocoa is about my limit). White chocolate used to be my favorite type but now that I can no longer eat milk-containing products, I have learned to appreciate the darker varieties.
One added benefit: the darker the chocolate, the healthier the chocolate.
Chocolate owes its health benefits to the cocoa bean. Cocoa is loaded with certain types of phytochemicals, which may play a role in disease prevention. As a result, cocoa has been reported to have higher antioxidant capacity than tea or red wine (J Agric Food Chem. 2003;51:7292-5).
If you’ve ever wanted more information about the cocoa bean, the World Cocoa Foundation has an interesting “From the Tree to the Table” presentation on its website www.worldcocoafoundation.org.
According to the WCF, cocoa trees are grown on small farms near the equator. The fruit of the tree looks like a long melon and ripens to a bright yellow or orange. When ripe, the fruit is harvested. The pods, as they are called, are broken open and the 20 to 50 cocoa beans inside each pod are removed. These beans are fermented and then dried. The dried cocoa beans are shipped to processing plants and made into cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, cocoa cake and cocoa powder.
This Valentine’s Day (and every day for that matter!) enjoy some dark chocolate… just not too much. Here are some super easy gluten-free recipes to make and share with your loved ones.
Make dark chocolate bark. Simply melt your favorite dark chocolate, spread it in a thin layer on a baking sheet covered in foil, and top with chopped nuts (pistachios and cashews) and diced dried fruit (cranberries and coconut). Place in the fridge to harden. Once the chocolate has hardened break into pieces.
An even easier but just as delicious idea is to serve coconut sorbet topped with shaved dark chocolate. My husband “made” this for me for my birthday this year — my having to avoid gluten, eggs and milk makes it a bit difficult for him to buy a cake. He put a candle in the sorbet and it was perfect!
Copyright © by Tricia Thompson, MS, RD
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