The next time you eat a piece of chocolate, you may not have to feel so guilty about it. Despite its bad reputation for causing weight gain, there are a number of health benefits of chocolate you might not know! Let’s explore them along with some guilt-free pairings.
Health Benefits of Chocolate
- Antioxidant Rich: Its antioxidant potential have a range of health benefits. The higher the cocoa content, as in dark chocolate, the more benefits there are. Dark chocolate may also contain less fat and sugar, but it is important to check the label.
- Improve Blood Flow and Lower Blood Pressure: The bio-active compounds in Dark Chocolate (Cocoa) may improve blood flow in the arteries and cause a small but statistically significant decrease in blood pressure.
- Protects Skin from Sun: The bioactive compounds in dark chocolate may also be great for your skin. The flavanols from cocoa can improve blood flow to the skin and protect it from sun damage. So, if you’re planning a beach vacation, consider loading up on dark chocolate in the prior weeks and months.
- Improves Brain Function: The good news isn’t over yet. Dark chocolate may also improve the function of your brain. Cocoa may also significantly improve cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment. It may improve verbal fluency and several risk factors for disease, as well.
Despite these health benefits of chocolate, it doesn’t mean you should go all out and consume lots of it every day. It is still loaded with calories. You can have a square or two after dinner and try to really savor them.
If you want the benefits of cocoa without the calories in chocolate, consider making a hot cocoa without any cream or sugar. Choose quality stuff — dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content works just fine.
Guilt-Free Chocolate Pairings
Chocolate Alone Is Good, but Chocolate With These Foods Is Better.
- Flirty Fruity: The darker the chocolate, the more bitter. The more bitter, the more it’s needs to be complimented by something very sweet. That’s why dark chocolate goes great with ripe strawberries, pears, mangoes, bananas – the sweeter fruit, the better! White chocolate on the other hand is already very rich and sweet. Pairing white chocolate with fruits that have a higher acidity or more mild flavor, such as tart berries and citrus, or mild melons and passion fruit, compliment this type of chocolate very well! If ever in doubt, milk chocolate is the best middle ground.
- The Naughty Nutty: Chocolate enhances the flavor of some nuts better than others. Peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans have very distinct flavor components that go great with dark chocolate! They may be a little overpowering for some milk and most definitely white chocolates. It’s all about the balance.
- Let’s Get Cheesy: Rich, buttery, nutty, creamy – terms you can use interchangeably when talking about cheese and chocolate! It doesn’t initially seem like an obvious match, but certain cheeses and chocolates have flavor components that complement each other very well! A cheese that is more acidic and pungent, like a blue cheese or goat cheese, would go better with a darker chocolate that can stand its own among those intense flavors.
- Crispy Coffee: A more obvious pairing of chocolate would be with coffee! Both nutty and bold flavors go phenomenally well together, especially when paired correctly! Darker chocolates go with darker and bolder roasts, like an Italian roast. A breakfast blend is sensational with a few pieces of creamy milk chocolate! Lighter roasts, like Costa Coffees pair well with the lightest of “chocolates”—white chocolate!
- The Romantic Wine: Chocolate and wine both have very intense flavors! A bite of good chocolate can easily overpower the taste of a light red or white wine—as does a sip of good dry wine to less bold chocolates. The key to successfully pairing wine with chocolate is to match sweetness with sweetness! Pairing milk chocolate (or sweeter dark chocolates) with dessert wines, like a Vintage Port, Madeira, or a sweet sherry, is the easiest way to make a successful pairing. These types of wine bring a natural sweetness to help keep up with the sweetness of the chocolate. And when paired right, chocolate and wine can be extraordinary!
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s celebrate this World Chocolate Day with our near and dear near ones! Found these guilt-free pairings interesting? Do you have some combinations of your own? Let us know in the comments below!