WHY YOU NEED IT
A single ounce of dark chocolate is packed with literally dozens of nutrients and disease fighters, including flavonoids— powerful antioxidants that mop up the cell-damaging free radicals that have been linked to heart disease and cancer. Choose alkaline-free cocoa products, such as Hershey's Cocoa, for the most powerful flavonoid punch. There are also "Dutch" dark chocolates on the market, but they're processed with alkaline to reduce bitterness, which drastically lowers flavonoid content.
Besides fighting heart disease, chocolate can help keep your ticker in tip-top shape. Research shows that as part of a balanced, low-fat eating plan, a regular dose of cocoa powder can raise good HDL cholesterol and lower total blood cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of clogged arteries that choke off the blood supply to your heart.
Chocolate also helps reduce inflammation in blood vessels, keeping them pliable and capable of fully dilating for optimum blood flow to your heart and other working muscles. Cocoa powder may help your heart in other ways as well. Long considered an aphrodisiac, cocoa beans contain phenylethamine, a "feel-good" chemical that triggers the release of opiate-like endorphins in the brain. Once the endorphins are released, they spike the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure.
HOW TO GET MORE
Whip up a mocha smoothie.
Blend 2 tbsp warm water, 1 tbsp each unsweetened cocoa and sugar, 1 tsp powdered instant coffee, ¼ cup milk, and ½ cup low-fat coffee yogurt in a blender or food processor until smooth.
Make no-bake cookies.
Melt dark or semisweet chocolate in the top of a double boiler. Add nuts, raisins, or oatmeal; stir to coat. Using a tablespoon, drop cookies onto wax paper; allow to harden.
Shake it onto other food.
Sprinkle unsweetened cocoa powder onto cold cereal, stir into cooked oatmeal, or add to pancake batter. Try mixing equal parts unsweetened cocoa powder and artificial sweetener; sprinkle it over low-fat microwave popcorn, stir it into coffee, or use it as a topping for plain low-fat yogurt. —
Use it as your "secret weapon."
" Add 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder to your favorite chili recipe. Most chili cook-off winners swear by the rich flavor it imparts.