Chocolate & Your Heart
Recent research indicates that chocolate may have some heart-healthy benefits. The cocoa bean contains flavonoids, which are a plant nutrient. Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid contained in cocoa and chocolate. Flavanols have antioxidant properties and can help resist damage to your body caused by free radicals. In addition, flavanols have been shown to reduce blood pressure, improve blood flow to the heart and brain, and reduce platelet stickiness and clots. Cocoa has a very strong, pungent taste caused by the flavanols it contains. When cocoa is processed into a chocolate product, many of the flavanols are lost. Unfortunately, most commercial chocolate products are very highly processed, which reduces any health benefit from the flavanols.
The fat found in chocolate comes from cocoa butter which is made of oleic, stearic, and palmitic acids. Oleic acid is a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. On the other hand, stearic and palmitic acids are saturated fats, which have been linked to increased LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. However, recent research shows that stearic acid neither raises nor lowers cholesterol. So, moderate portions of dark chocolate (1 ounce a few times per week) can be included in an overall healthy diet. Watch out for ingredients that add extra fat and calories though. Choose plain dark chocolate and avoid chocolate products that contain caramel, marshmallows, coconut and those that have been highly processed. Many chocolate manufacturers are looking for ways to retain the healthy flavanols that are lost during chocolate processing. In the meantime, include other flavonoid-rich foods like apples, red wine, tea, onions and cranberries in your diet to obtain the health benefits from flavanols.
Peanut Butter & Pretzel Truffles
- ½ cup crunchy natural peanut butter
- ¼ cup finely chopped pretzels (salted or unsalted)
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips, melted
- Combine peanut butter and pretzels in a small bowl. Chill in the freezer until firm (about 15 minutes)
- Roll the peanut butter mixture into 20 balls (about 1 tsp each)
- Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper and freeze until very firm (about 1 hour).
- Roll the frozen balls in melted chocolate
- Refrigerate until the chocolate is set (about 30 minutes)
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks
Per truffle: 64 calories, 4g fat, 1 g sat fat, 2g monounsaturated fat, 1mg cholesterol, 5g carbohydrate, 2 g protein, 1 g fiber, 53mg sodium, 65mg potassium
**Sources: www.clevelandclinic.org and www.eatingwell.com**