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4March 30, 2008Bittersweet: more than just chocolate (recipes at end)

Posted Mar 30 2008 12:00am

  chocolate.jpg

Like a good piece of dark chocolate, life can be bitter sweet.  This weekend was a prime example.  The sweet part included a great snowshoe for my husband’s birthday, which included a fun day with two of our dear friends.     I even packed a healthy lunch of turkey and avocado wraps on multi-grain tortillas with veggies, and cheese.  We enjoyed a nice alpine lunch and good laughs.   The day rolled into night with an exotic trip to Morocco via Marrakesh restaurant and laughs with co-workers.

Then the bitter part: Long story short – our car was broken into and  my purse, an ipod, some clothes, and a backpack were nabbed.  Certainly an unexpected twist to our day……

But back to the sweet:  This kind of stuff unglues me, but I was able to keep my cool, deal with it all, and NOT EAT OVER IT!!!  Whenever I would think about wanting to “devour” my feelings over it, I would breathe or just talk about it.  Maybe my friends got sick of me bringing it up, but the sanity I had over releasing my feelings is worth any annoyance.  If you are like me and tend to “digest” your feelings instead of express them, you can appreciate this little victory.

I had already planned on going back to regular food this weekend, so I felt empowered in my choices at lunch and snack time after our snow adventure.  What also helped was having already seen the menu of the restaurant we attended, as I could mentally prepare for the choices available.

When I’m stressed, I must have a plan.  That plan is like my rock and makes me feel safe.  Already it can be hard when I’m with others who are eating all types of food, especially when the  continue to offer me treats and tidbits.  They don’t know that I can’t have “just one” or that all the little critters in my belly would have a party if I ate certain things.  It’s my deal, so I have to make responsible choices.

The Plan:
We had dinner at Marrakesh : a Moroccon restaurant in Portland.  I planned ahead to do the following:

marrakesh.jpg

  • Strategically have a “safe” snack pre-dinner.  For me this was a turkey/onion/mustard mini-wrap on a large romaine lettuce leaf, some tea, and a few apple slices.
  • Drink water and nothing else.  I’m not a big alcohol drinker anyway, but rarely drink when I’m out. The extra sugar is a no-go for me.
  • I avoided eating the bread when enjoying the “salad”, which was totally a finger/bread food. I piled up the veggies/hummus on small bits of bread, but didn’t eat the bread.
  • I tasted all the meat dishes, but had just enough to be satisfied.  Some of the flavors included apricot chicken, lamb with couscous, veggies and raisins (ate around the couscous), and lemon chicken with almonds.  Yum, yum, yum.   Moroccan food blends sweet and savory so well, I just love it!  Eating with my hands actually made me go slower, which helped not stuff myself.
  • Skipped dessert because I had my fill.

What’s funny about yesterday is that I’m so fired up about the fact that the stress did not make me seek out TONS of sugar yesterday or today, that it gives a little sunshine to a frustrating situation.

So, in honor of my bittersweet day, I’d like to speak about chocolate.

I truly believe chocolate can be a health food, depeneding  upon what kind you use and how much you eat.  For the health benefits look for 70% dark chocolate, which automatically means there will be less sugar.  I often keep dark chocolate bars or powder on hand to make low sugar treats because they save me from going on the deep end with sugar.

How to know if you really have a chocolate craving, or a sugar craving:

When you are really craving chocolate, a piece of bittersweet dark chocolate will alleviate the craving.  When you crave sugar, the desire is often more for milk or white chocolate (not really chocolate) because milk/white chocolate have milk sugar and regular sugar.  Beware: even hershey’s dark and the low-end dark chocolates often have only 30-50% cacao, and still have tons of sugar.

Is chocolate a superfood?  Read here and you be the judge:

·Cacao is rich in antioxidants

·Cacao has been associated with decreased diabetes & blood pressure (American Heart Association)

· Cacao is rich in B1, B2 and D vitamins, and magnesium and iron.

· Cacao is associated with improved vasodilation, helping increase stamina during exercise. (Athens Medical School)

· Cacao is cholesterol free. Its phenolic properties may also block oxidation of LDL cholesterol.

· Chocolate is associated with euphoria and reduced depression – due to phenylthylamine.

· Serotonin, a well-studied neurotransmitter, is thought to instill calm and relaxed feelings. Chocolate is associated with increased serotonin levels, a factor that is believed to explain chocolate cravings.

· Some researchers believe that
serotonin is related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), explaining premenstrual chocolate cravings.

· Stearic acid, chocolate’s predominant saturated fat, has neutral effects on blood cholesterol.

· The European Board of Health lists chocolate as a pre-digestive aid

A  good chocolate bar also has about 3-5 g fiber/serving and contains trace minerals, like Selenium.

What about allergies?
Jeremy Drelich, MD assessed a group of 20 individuals who reported allergic reactions after chocolate consumption. After a week without eating chocolate each individual received skin prick and blood tests for allergies to chocolate and component ingredients (milk, soy, almonds, peanuts, vanilla), and consumed unlabeled cacao and non-cacao samples. Sugar allergies were assessed by giving half the participants unsweetened chocolate and half chocolate made with cane juice. None showed definite evidence of a chocolate allergy, though some tested positive for non-cacao ingredients. By choosing organic products made without additives or fillers – such as organic dark chocolate made without refined sugar – you’ll may find yourself happily reunited with chocolate.

Feeling bittersweet? Try these low or no sugar recipes:

CHOCOLATE COCONUT MACAROONS

3 cups shredded coconut
1/3 cups cocoa powder (substitute same amount of almond flour for
blonde macaroons)
1 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup coconut butter (I found at New Season’s)
1 Tb. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until moistened. Refrigerate for about
an hour just to make forming the balls easier. Form into balls.

Dehydrate @150 for 12 hours or place on a cookie sheet for roughly 5 – 7 mins @ 350 degrees. This just gives it a little crispness on the
outside.

CHOCOLATE MINT DISKS
Pour I cup coconut oil in a bowl. If oil is solid,place it in a double boiler and heat gently to the liquid state.

Add 1/2 C. dark chocolate or 2 to 3 tsp. cocoa powder . If using chips/chunks, melt chips with solid coconut oil, or melt and add to liquid coconut oil.
Stevia- 2 droppers or to taste.
Peppermint oil- 3 drops
Add chopped nuts, seeds or unsweetened coconut to taste.( raw sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, or any nut in raw state, excluding peanuts.) 
Pour mixture into pie pan and refrigerate.
Cut into squares before they get too hard or set them out for a few minutes and let barely soften to cut up.  You can also use a small mold for convenience.

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