I still enjoy a glass of wine when I go out for dinner, but anything more than that will give me a headache (or, worse, not bring out the best in me!) Although there are studies suggesting some health benefits of moderate drinking, too much alcohol is always detrimental to our health. And "too much" means more than one glass daily for women and two for men.
Photo credit Wix
Many think of alcohol as a mood enhancer and confidence booster, but in reality, it's a depressant - and creator of bad decisions! By contrast, snacking on a little dark chocolate has been shown to increase our serotonin levels. And that happy feeling is just the beginning of the good news about this tasty treat.
From Junk Food to Health Food
Once blamed for causing acne and considered junk food, chocolate has taken on a 'superfood' status. It's chock full of the same antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables (which are essential for fighting the free radicals that can cause cancer and other debilitating illnesses). Studies show that chocolate can decrease the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and help with memory and brain function in older people.
And the acne myth? Well, your skin could look better than ever with the right kind of chocolate. The flavonols found in dark chocolate can protect your skin from sun damage, reduce wrinkles and age spots, and even give you a glowing complexion!
The Darker, the Better
However, there is a caveat to all this welcome information about our beloved chocolate. And that is to pick the right kind. Liken this to choosing a great wine and forgo the overly processed sugary chocolate that's been stripped of its nutrients. Look for brands that meet the following criteria:
70% or more content of cacao or cocoa. If you need to start a little lower to train your palate, that's okay.
Low sugar. Try to stay under 4 grams of sugar per serving. Avoid anything that has sugar as the first ingredient, and please, absolutely no artificial sweeteners! I like to find brands that use maple syrup or coconut sugar instead of cane sugar.
The right fat. Cocoa butter comes from the cacao plant and contains beneficial fats that can slow down sugar absorption.
Look for the organic seal. This means the cocoa beans were grown without pesticides and other harmful chemicals. And it's the easiest way to avoid those artificial ingredients and fillers commonly found in regular bars of chocolate.
Remember that even the most wholesome chocolate is still calorie-dense and shouldn't be eaten in abundance. The recommended amount is about 1 to 2 ounces a day. So eat slowly and savor every delicious bite.
Healthy Hot Chocolate
1 generous tablespoon 100% cacao powder
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 capful of vanilla extract
1 cup milk
Mix the cacao powder, maple syrup, and vanilla extract in a mug.
Top with frothed milk
Chocolate is the answer. Who cares what the question is?