Why is Dark Chocolate Healthy?

You’ve heard it before, and maybe it’s the excuse you use for your afternoon snack break; Dark chocolate is healthy. You know that it has something to do with antioxidants (you might have even read it here!) but how exactly this works has not been totally understood, until now. Recently, a study out of Louisiana State College of Agriculture, revealed a clue as to how cocoa may be acting in a beneficial manner.

The findings, which were released during the American Chemical Society’s annual meeting in March, showed that gut microbes may enjoy chocolate even more than we do. It appears that some of the “healthy microbes” in our digestive tracts, consume compounds in cocoa, and break them down into smaller molecules. These smaller molecules act both as anti-inflammatories, and may help to increase satiety after they have been consumed. This is one more fascinating piece of the puzzle explaining the role of bacteria in our digestive system!

A word of caution about these results. Like any bit of information, this is not the entire story. This was a preliminary study, done in test-tubes, and utilizing only a few of the multitude of bacteria in our micro biomes. The study was done using cocoa powder (dark chocolate has a higher proportion of cocoa than other types of chocolate), and anti-inflammatory compounds are only one of many influencers of health.

So continue to enjoy your chocolate, in moderation of course! Remember Mother’s Day is on Sunday, maybe she’d like some chocolate?

365 Days of Vegetables Continued

We are well into the year and our plan for trying new vegetable dishes is going well. This past Sunday we had two new-to-us recipes which were both a success. The first came from the Vegetable of the Day book I got for Christmas; Two-Pea Sauté with Basil & Pecorino. The combination of English and sugar snap peas, along with lemon, basil and pecorino cheese was delicious. The flavors were bright and fresh, perfect for the first weekend of spring even if the temperature outside was not!

Our entree was a Mushroom and Leek Galette with Gorgonzola from America’s Test Kitchen. This was a dish I had been meaning to try for awhile now. It was full of shiitake mushrooms and leeks, encased in flaky pastry dough with just the right amount of thyme and gorgonzola for added flavor. The boys (who were a little dubious at first) pronounced it good, and two even had seconds.

Meatless Mondays have been becoming more and more popular over the past few years as a way to kick off the week in a healthy way. Somehow in our house it has turned into Meatless Sundays as we sample more and more vegetable entrees – not a bad thing at all!


Green Smoothie for St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! As I’ve written before, going green does not have to entail drinking large amounts of green beer or eating overlarge portions of corned beef. You can make your day a green one by incorporating plenty of green produce in your day. What that meant for me today was a green smoothie after my workout.

I used spinach, greek yogurt, banana, and milk. You can use almost any combination of fruits and veggies in your own smoothie (read my post about smoothie making for more guidance) and enjoy!


Good Timing – A New Label!

Just in time for National Nutrition Month, the Food and Drug Administration has given the American public a gift. The FDA is looking to revamp the food label for the second time in 20 years (the other previous change was to add Trans Fat to the label and not a substantial re-design). The changes are being made will show “a greater understanding of nutrition science”, “updated serving sizes”, and “a refreshed design”.

What does all of this mean to you? Hopefully the new labels will be easier to read and give more useful information. The changes include calories per serving in a larger font so you can see at a glance if the item you are considering will work within your calorie “budget”. Added sugars will now be highlighted (this is one of the things I am most excited about), as well as vitamin D and Potassium. Additionally standard serving sizes will be updated to reflect the amounts that people typically eat and drink. You can take a look at the fact sheet from the FDA for even more information.

The changes are not set at this time, for 90 days the FDA is accepting public comments about the proposed changes, so stay tuned for the final results. Here is a look at the proposed label. What do you think?