Localicious – Chocolate: The Way to a Woman’s Heart

art-215-localiciousEveryone knows that the way to a woman’s heart is chocolate, right? But did you know that chocolate is also a way to keep a woman’s heart (or anyone’s heart) healthy? I don’t mean Hershey or Twix bars, but rich, dark chocolate made from the pure cacao bean.

Chocolate is produced from cacao beans, which grow on three different types of cacao trees within 20 degrees of the equator: Forastero, which is the most common and found in 90% of the world’s cacao crops; Criollo, which is the rarest and used by the world’s best chocolate makers; and Trinitario, a cross between the Criollo and Forastero.

Once harvested, cacao beans go through quite a lengthy process to become your favorite chocolate treat. The beans are fermented to remove the bitter taste and activate the enzymes to help bring out the flavors. Then they are dried and, finally, roasted.

Heart of Shasta in Mt. Shasta specializes in gourmet raw chocolates. These fine chocolates are handmade by owner Jody Ciesielczyk using organic ingredients, including 100% cacao powder and raw honey. “It’s all of nature’s goodness without the preservatives,” says Jody. Plus, they are gluten-, dairy- and soy-free. The cacao butter, coconut oil and honey are warmed to form a liquid that can be molded into beautiful shapes, but never cooked. Jody says, “The temperature never exceeds 120 degrees and is usually closer to 104 degrees. Other cocoa powders are exposed to temperatures as high as 300 degrees.” This allows her product to maintain its raw qualities.

Chocolate is a great source of heart-healthy magnesium and is rich in flavonoids (plant pigments responsible for chocolate’s many health benefits). In fact, according to Michael Murray, ND, and Joseph Pizzorno, ND, both leaders in the field of nutrition and research, the key flavonoids responsible for chocolate’s health benefits are proanthocyanidins similar to the ones found in grape seed extract and plant sterols.

Research suggests that chocolate consumption has a positive effect on the heart and in protecting the body against cardiovascular disease. Here’s how:

  • Fats found in chocolate do not raise cholesterol levels.
  • Cocoa butter contains plant sterols that may inhibit absorption of dietary cholesterol.
  • Chocolate is rich in flavonoids and antioxidants that help protect arteries against damage caused by high cholesterol levels.
  • Chocolate’s antioxidant effect is similar to or greater than red wine.
  • Flavonoids in chocolate prevent excessive clumping of platelets that cause blood clots.
  • Chocolate contains the amino acid arginine, which helps maintain healthy blood flow and blood pressure while protecting against inflammation.

Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, which functions as a neurotransmitter and is released during moments of emotional euphoria, explaining why chocolate is often associated with love. Eating it makes us happy!

Clarice Armstrong, co-owner of Coco Amatrice Artisan Chocolates and Gelato in old town Paradise puts the love of chocolate into words: “The best type of chocolate is the chocolate that puts a smile on your face,” she says. She sure sees a lot of smiles in her shop, which specializes in European-inspired artisan chocolate, all-natural gelato, sipping chocolate and other specialties, including passion fruit truffles and chocolate mousse cups.

Like many foods today, the type of chocolate you eat can either be beneficial to your health or not. Read the labels and avoid chocolate containing the harmful trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils, as they contribute to many health issues, including heart disease.

We ladies love to get chocolate on Valentine’s Day, but gentlemen, please don’t limit your chocolate buying only to February 14, especially since you know the secret way to a woman’s (healthy) heart.

Resources

  • Coco Amatrice Artisan Chocolates and Gelato, located at 5934 Clark Rd. in Paradise, focuses on European flavors and textures that are artistically beautiful and positively delicious. For current hours, visit http://www.cocoamatrice.com or call (530) 872-2922.
  • Heart of Shasta offers North State Parent readers a 10% discount on gourmet organic raw chocolates purchased on their website; use the code 10NSP at http://www.heartofshasta.com. Their chocolate also can be purchased in Mt. Shasta at Alpine Originals, Berryvale Grocery, Best Western Plus Tree House, and Gilden Lodge.
  • Paradise Chocolate Fest takes place May 9, 2015, at Terry Ashe Park & Recreation Center, 6626 Skyway in Paradise. This annual festival is a sweet treat offering chocolate-filled fun for all ages! For directions, schedules and information, visit
    http://www.chocolatefest.us or call (530) 342-4896.
  • Pumpkinland Chocolate Company is located in Red Bluff at 12000 State Hwy 99E. This elegant shop offers a huge selection of gourmet chocolates and truffles, plus ice cream and a lush outdoor area to explore. Visit http://www.pumpkinlandchocolate.com or call (530) 527-3026.
Michelle Cave
About Michelle Cave

Michelle Cave is a certified Nutrition Consultant & Nutrition Educator and has been practicing for over 13 years. She studied Holistic Nutrition at Bauman College, in Berkeley, CA and is a member of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals. Find out more: www.familynutritionconnection.com

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