En español | Remember when chocolate joined broccoli and blueberries as a health-promoting, disease-fighting food? Dark chocolate, specifically, is good for you. Its usual partners — butter, sugar, cream — are what drag it down. So for your guiltless pleasure, I share with you three healthy chocolate treats: Coconut Hot Chocolate, Double Chocolate Pudding and Chocolate-Peanut Chex Mix.
Dark chocolate helps fight inflammation, especially important for cardiovascular health. But this sweet treat also helps with two other biggies — reducing blood pressure and "bad" LDL cholesterol. In addition, dark chocolate is high in fiber, so just a little bite quickly curbs the appetite and satisfies for longer than empty-calorie snacks do.
Two recent studies point to more good chocolate news. According to a small Italian study, regular chocolate eating increases insulin sensitivity, which means reduced risk for diabetes. And a Swedish study observed a 20 percent reduction in strokes for women who ate more than 1 1/2 ounces of chocolate a week, compared with those who ate a scant quarter-ounce.
Like baby aspirin, chocolate helps thin the blood, and so much more deliciously. Plus, remember when your mom blamed chocolate for all of your facial blemishes? Quite the opposite! In fact, chocolate is good for skin. What's more, chocolate is good for your mood. There's great satisfaction in enjoying the occasional treat, in moderation, and chocolate can offer that much-needed energy boost when we start to lag.
Despite all the good news about chocolate, we all know it doesn't mean we're entitled to an enormous wedge of chocolate cake, a big brownie or a saucer-size chocolate-chip cookie. Still, it's nice to know that something we all crave is actually good for us.
Coconut Hot Chocolate
Don't confuse coconut drink with canned coconut milk or cream. Coconut drink is usually located in the nondairy-milk section.
2 cups coconut drink (such as Coconut Dream)
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Slowly bring coconut drink, chocolate and salt to simmer in a medium saucepan, whisking to melt the chocolate. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and serve.
Double Chocolate Pudding
I like whole milk's richness in this pudding. If you use reduced- or low-fat milk, you could probably justify enjoying a slightly larger portion.
2 cups whole milk
6 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons roasted pumpkin seeds
Microwave milk in a 1-quart Pyrex measuring cup until steamy hot, 3 to 4 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt in a medium saucepan. Over medium heat, vigorously whisk in milk. Continue to whisk until mixture thickens to pudding consistency, just a couple of minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in chocolate. Serve warm or pour into an airtight container or 6 custard cups with a sheet of plastic over the surface to keep a skin from forming. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on pudding before serving. The pudding can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
Chocolate-Peanut Chex Mix
Makes about 2 cups
Of these three healthy chocolate treats, this one is pretty addictive, so be sure to measure out a portion and put the rest out of sight!
1 cup Chex cereal (variety, your choice)
1 cup bite-size pretzels
1/2 cup roasted peanuts (salted, optional)
1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
Toss cereal, pretzels and peanuts with warm chocolate to evenly coat. Turn onto a parchment- or waxed-lined small baking sheet and spread in a more or less single layer. Refrigerate until set, about 10 minutes. Serve!
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Check out the AARP home page every day for healthy eating tips, cooking ideas and more.
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