Rx…Eat Dark Chocolate!

Rx… Dark chocolate is decadent, delicious, and should be on your menu!

When moving toward a plant-based diet, it’s important not to focus on what you CAN’T have and instead, focus on what you CAN have and why.

As Dr. Dean Ornish said,  “When people make the diet and lifestyle changes I recommend, most of them find that they feel so much better so quickly that it reframes the reason for changing (their diet) from fear of dying to joy of living.  Joy and love are powerful, sustainable motivators, but fear and deprivation are not.”  I, too, believe that the way we think and talk about what we eat can have a powerful effect on our willingness and ability to make healthier food choices.

So, let’s reframe the way we think and talk about chocolate, using medical research to help us out.  How is chocolate (specifically dark chocolate, with 70% or greater cacao) good for you?

Lowers Blood Pressure – There have been a few studies that show that dark chocolate has the ability to lower blood pressure by increasing the body’s production of nitric oxide, causing blood vessels to relax.

Increased Blood Flow to the Heart – This effect was noted in a study in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.  Again, this is a result of dark chocolate’s ability to increase production of nitric oxide in the coronary arteries.   More blood flow to the heart helps it pump stronger and reduces the risk of heart attack.

Improves Mood/Depression – I guess this is one of the reasons chocolate has been thought of as an aphrodisiac.  It works by increasing serotonin and endorphins in the brain (similar to how Prozac works).

There are further claims in the medical literature that dark chocolate improves HDL (good cholesterol), is an antioxidant, and thins the blood.

The reason these studies focus on dark chocolate (chocolate containing >70% cacao) is because dark chocolate contains the highest amount of Flavonoids.  Flavonoids are antioxidants found naturally in plants (including cacao) and are known to cause the effects noted above.  Flavonoids account for the “bitter” taste that is distinctive of dark chocolate.  Another interesting fact is that Flavonoids are found in higher concentrations in dark chocolate than in red wine or tea.  Also, dark chocolate is lower in fat and sugar than milk chocolate and white chocolate.

Remember that portion control is important here, as chocolate — even dark chocolate — can be potent in calories.  It’s best to limit it to one ounce per serving, or one to two squares off of a bar.  Spare a square, anyone?

Dr. Weinstein’s Orders…Eat dark chocolate!

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