Cocoa for the heart

There’s a nice little article in the August 30th Time magazine titled “Chocolate for the Heart.”  It reports that a new study done in Sweden found that those who ate chocolate once or twice a week had a 32% lower risk of heart failure. However, those who ate chocolate every day lost the benefit, probably because of the fats.

I kind of like my chocolate daily, so what about cocoa powder? I buy Sharffen Berger brand which is about 20% cocoa butter – that’s much less fat than regular chocolate.

Here’s a report about an older study (2003) on the benefits of cocoa:

In their study, Lee and colleagues performed a complicated chemical analysis of cocoa, black tea, green tea, and red wine, finding that cocoa had the highest levels of antioxidants, twice as high as red wine, and nearly three times stronger than green tea:

  • Cocoa had 611 mg of phenols and 564 mg of flavonoids.
  • Red wine had 340 mg of phenols and 163 mg of flavonoids.
  • Green tea had 165 mg of phenols and 47 mg of flavonoids.
  • Black tea had 124 mg of phenols and 34 mg of flavonoids.

“These results suggest that cocoa is more beneficial to health than teas and red wine in terms of its higher antioxidant capacity” and ability to fight damage leading to heart disease and cancer, writes Lee.

One caveat: “Even though a bar of chocolate exhibits strong antioxidant activity, the health benefits are still controversial because relatively large amounts of saturated fats are present,” Lee says. “However, a cup of hot cocoa has a much lower level of saturated fats (0.3 g per serving) than a bar of chocolate (8 g per 40 g bar).”

Heat may help trigger release of more antioxidants, Lee writes. The new finding makes hot cocoa a compelling addition to our kitchen arsenal of cancer and heart-disease fighting foods.

(Ki Won Lee, PhD, a food science researcher with Seoul National University in South Korea. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry)

Here’s how I use (and love) cocoa powder:

Hot chocolate – see my recipe here

Chocolate Banana Smoothie – so much better tasting than a chocolate milk shake!

Recipe for one serving:

Add to blender:

  • Half of a frozen banana (or fresh – just add more ice)
  • 1 TBS or so of good quality cocoa powder, 1/2 cup of regular, soy or almond milk
  • A couple teaspoons sugar or sugar substitute if desired

Blend to liquify and add ice cubes until thick.
Sometimes I add a spoonful of peanut butter.

Chocolate banana ice cream

You need a high power blender for this like a vitamix.

Put 3 or 4 frozen bananas in blender. Add 3 TBS good quality cocoa powder, 2/3 cup of cream or regular, soy or almond milk. Add sugar if desired. Blend until smooth.

We had this tonight along with strawberry ice cream and no dairy no sugar cherry ice cream – using my Five Minute Ice Cream recipe.


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