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health benefits of chocolate with recipes nutritious desserts

health benefits of chocolate with recipes nutritious desserts 

Chocolate has been getting a bad rap. Although it’s often combined with other ingredients that result in calorie-laden and not particularly heart-healthy treats, the actual cocoa bean from which chocolate is derived has some significant health benefits.

Based on research from the recent 2004 Cocoa Symposium, sponsored by the University of California and the National Institutes of Health, chocolate was found to offer many disease-fighting properties in its pure form. Chocolate contains flavonoids, antioxidants shared by green tea and garlic, and thought to protect both heart and blood vessels. In addition, chocolate is also a good source of folic acid, copper, and magnesium and boosts serotonin, the brain chemical that enhances mood.

Historically, chocolate was highly regarded for its nutritional properties as well. Chocolate originated in the rainforests of Latin America and was known for its medicinal properties. In 17th century Europe, chocolate was touted as a remedy for such ailments as anemia, tuberculosis, and gout.

Even though there are real nutritional benefits to chocolate, this doesn’t mean that chocolate bars should join fruits and vegetables in your five a day plan. Chocolate is still higher in fat and calories than many other antioxidant-rich foods. It’s also usually combined with sugar, even though its moderate glycemic index helps provide a steady source of energy. But eaten in moderation, chocolate can satisfy your cravings for sweets and provide a health boost at the same time.

Pure cocoa powder has the highest concentration of antioxidant power, followed by dark chocolate and then milk chocolate. Cocoa powder also has the least fat—only half a gram with no saturated fat. Bar chocolate, including chocolate morsels and chips, is higher in fat and also contains sugar. Two tablespoons of chocolate chips contain approximately 4 grams of fat, including 2.5 of saturated fat.

To get started, here are three healthy, low-fat recipes in which chocolate is combined with another nutritional powerhouse.

Chocolate Cherry Cakes

In this recipe, chocolate is combined with cherries, another potent antioxidant that has been show to regulate sleep cycles and enhance memory. Each mini cake has a moist chocolate flavor and only 3 grams of fat.

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 ounces frozen cherries, chopped
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons applesauce
3 tablespoons egg substitute
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup cherry jam, unsweetened

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Grind oatmeal until it resembles a course flour. Place the flours, cocoa, sugar, and baking soda in a medium bowl and stir to mix well. Add the cherries with juice, oil, applesauce, egg substitute, and vanilla and stir well. Set the batter aside for 10 minutes and then stir again for 10 to 15 seconds. Fold in the walnuts. Spread the batter evenly into an 8-inch baking pan, coated with cooking spray. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or just until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean or coated with a few crumbs. Let the cake cool in the pan to room temperature. Cut into 12 squares mini cakes and top with cherry jam.

Chocolate Oat Bars

Oats lower cholesterol as well as reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and Type II diabetes. This recipe makes 25 bars with 2 grams of fat each.

1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup applesauce, unsweetened
1/4 cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1/2 cup chocolate chip chunks

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. In a medium bowl, mix together sugar and applesauce until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla to sugar-applesauce mixture. Add flours, baking soda, and cinnamon; mix well. Stir in oats and chocolate chunks. Pour into an 8-inch metal baking pan, coated with cooking spray. Bake 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown; remove to wire rack.

Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

This cheesecake combines the delicious taste of chocolate with the additional nutritional benefits of yogurt and antioxidant-rich raspberries. Use organic cream cheese and yogurt if available. Cut into 12 slices, each serving contains 10 grams of fat. For a lower fat option you can substitute fat-free cream cheese, but be sure to read labels carefully. Fat-free cream cheese is more likely to contain artificial ingredients and preservatives than its low-fat counterparts. If you can't find Wax Orchards Fudge Fantasy topping (made with cocoa powder and white grape juice), you can substitute another fudge topping or make your own.

1-1/4 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 cup liquid egg substitute
16 ounces (2 packages) reduced-fat cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces (1 container) non-fat raspberry yogurt
1/2 cup non-fat chocolate fudge topping (such as Wax Orchards Fudge Fantasy)
1 cup fresh or defrosted frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 300 F degrees. Combine graham cracker crumbs and oil. Press  into a 9-inch springform pan. Beat cream cheese in a medium bowl until smooth. Add sugar, flour, egg substitute, vanilla, and yogurt, one at a time, beating until smooth. Pour mixture over graham cracker crumbs. Bake 1 1/2 hours or until center is firm. When cheesecake has cooled, spread a thin layer of chocolate fudge topping over top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Before serving, top with raspberries.

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