CANADA, FEBRUARY 14, 2011 (CHATELAINE) By Marni Wasserman - Want an excuse to indulge in these decadent sweets?

Excellent health benefits of cacao and a chocolate avocado pudding recipe:

If there is one item to stock up on this month it's chocolate. I'm talking about pure, dark, raw, 100% cacao. Nothing beats the pleasure that comes from a dose of chocolaty goodness. Indulging in this decadence is even better because, in case you didn't already know it, chocolate is actually good for you.

The purest form of raw chocolate is known as cacao, which comes directly from a bean or pod. Here is why it is so good for you:

1. Cacao provides your body with a host of nutrients including antioxidants, iron, chromium, and zinc. It even contains vitamin C.

2. Cacao contains extremely high levels of magnesium, which help to support the heart, increase brainpower, build strong bones, relax muscles, and increase alkalinity.

3. Cacao has a low glycemic index and therefore doesn't cause your blood sugar levels to rise and crash. A square of dark chocolate everyday can actually help to bring you into balance and reduce cravings for other forms of refined sweetness.

4. Cacao helps to increase your energy level and mood while reducing stress levels. Overall, chocolate makes us feel good. There is no questioning that!

5. The properties of cacao are even beneficial to the cardiovascular system because they can suppress the formation of blood clots. Be sure to fill your heart and your blood full of chocolate this month and all year around.

Here are some helpful tips to enhance your chocolate eating experience:
Make sure you buy dark chocolate such as nibs, cacao powder, or cocoa butter and then blend them into your favourite smoothie, tea, cookie or pudding recipe.
Add them to your morning oats, raw desserts, or even trail mix.


Ecosalon Recipes: Avocado-Chocolate Pudding by Sarah Irani 

I always want to eat dessert first – who doesn’t? Better yet is eating dessert for dinner.

Raw chocolate, often called cacao (ka-KOW), is the base ingredient for all chocolaty treats, but the cacao is usually cooked, processed and turned into the well-known cocoa, which is still tasty, but doesn’t have the same amazing nutritional and energizing benefits.

One of my favorite healthy dessert recipes is avocado-chocolate pudding. It’s literally so nutritious and filling that you can have it for dinner.

I never use measurements, so you’ll have to figure everything to taste, but it’s really quite simple:

* 1 or 2 ripe, soft avocados (3/4 to 1 avocado per person)
* A few spoonfuls of raw cacao powder
* A few spoonfuls of natural sweetener (honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup)
*A dash of salt and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice
*A dash of cinnamon, to taste

Simple, fast, delicious! The avocado is a healthy and filling fat source, so you’ll feel like you’ve had a real meal, and it’s such a diverse fruit, it can be eaten sweetened or salted. The cacao powder gives you energy and is high in anti-oxidants. The natural sweeteners make sure you get a slow, sustained rise in blood sugar (unlike refined white sugar, which causes a spike and a crash).

So tonight eat your dessert first and enjoy!

Why you should choose more chocolate *By Astrid Van Den Broek

“When I get older, I’m eating whatever I want! I may or may not work out, but I’m going to eat and drink whatever.”-many of my friends.

You know how many times I’ve heard this? And it’s most often from women who are portion sizer-uppers, Skinnygirl Margarita orderers and passing-on-the-breadbasketers.

Well, read this and whoop ladies—a new study says older women who regularly eat chocolate are likely to have healthier hearts, reports the study from Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Australia.

 That’s enough to make any woman happy, right? So while chocolate often does our mood good, it also does our body good—the study examined women over 70 years old who ate chocolate at least once a week. Of the women studied, those who ate that much chocolate were about 35 per cent less likely to pass away from heart disease, say reports. Pretty good news to look forward to, don’t you think?

Meanwhile, you don’t have to wait until you’re over 70 to enjoy a Willy Wonka-like confection because chocolate at any age can offer a few health boosts, says Natalie Brown, a registered dietitian in White Rock, B.C. “The best type of chocolate for you is a dark chocolate since it contains enzymes that help regulate blood pressure,” says Brown. “Cocoa also contains flavenoids which lower the LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduces the hardening of the arteries. Cocoa does have anti-inflammatory properties as well as antioxidants.”

If you are going to nosh on some of the good stuff, remember to follow Brown’s tips on how much and what kind to take.

* Eat up to 3.5 oz. of dark chocolate daily to get your health kick. “But in order to accommodate the chocolate in our diet, calories would need to be equivalently reduced with other foods in the day to make room for the chocolate and not gain weight,” reminds Brown.

* “Choose a dark chocolate with at least 65 per cent or higher cocoa content,” she suggests. And opt for dark chocolate containing nuts or orange peel over calorie and fat-rich fillings such as caramel, nougat or mint fillings.

* Should you go for organic chocolate? “There’s no difference on the heart health effects,” says Brown. “The possibility of the cocoa powder containing pesticides could be an issue for the non-organic but I don’t think it is worth the extra money you would pay to have organic chocolate.”

Time to grab me a Hershey bar…

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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