February 01, 2010

Monthly Essentials: February

What better time to celebrate the healthful aspect of chocolate than in the month of cold grey days and Valentine's Day! This delicious delight has quite a history that spans many cultures. In approximately 1,500 B.C  the Maya and Olmec people discovered the benefits of chocolate.  They used roasted cocoa paste as the primary ingredient in a bitter drink hailed for its nourishing qualities and ability to boost both energy and stamina. It was also used to treat stomach and intestinal complaints, infections, fever and coughs. It also played an important role in their religion, society and economy.

Until the 1500s, no one outside of the these cultures knew anything at all about chocolate. It wasn’t until Cort├ęs conquered Mexico in 1521 that the Spanish began to learn about the delicious flavor of chocolate. After tasting it, his men dubbed it the “divine drink” that “builds up resistance and fights fatigue.” Observing that “a cup of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day without food.”

It is true that dark chocolate is the kind that harbors the best of this tasty essential. Dark chocolate contains Flavonoids (naturally-occurring compounds found in plant-based foods recognized as exuding certain health benefits) and these nutrients are known to be a very Heart healthy support by: Reducing platelet activation,
affecting the relaxation capabilities of blood vessels and positively affecting the balance of eicosanoids. (a hormone that plays a role in cardiovascular health)

Keep in mind, everything in moderation, but know that eating an ounce of dark chocolate a day - can improve you day in even these small ways:

Stress Reduction (lower, adrenaline, DOPA, 3-methoxy-tyrosine, cortisol & catecholamines)
Lessened Intestinal Issues (lower methylamines, p-cresol sulfate, hippurate)
Higher Energy (regulation of glycine, citrate, trans-aconitate, proline, b-alanine)
Lower Blood Pressure (increased nitric oxide activity)
Pain Reduction (actives endorphins)
Promote Relaxation (provides anandamide and cannabinoid)
Anti-Depressant (contains serotonin)

So if you get that standard box of chocolates from cupid this year, maybe put in a request for the all dark selection and do you best to sample them one bite at a time!

Research Links:
http://www.prohealth.com/library/showarticle.cfm?libid=8326
http://longevity.about.com/od/lifelongnutrition/p/chocolate.htm
http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/nutrition/chocolate.aspx
http://mydrchocolate.soundconcepts.com/

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