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The Health Benefits of Chocolate

Posted on November 1, 2012 12:12 PM by Caitlin
Heart Healthy Chocolate

If you’ve ever looked for an excuse to eat more delicious dark chocolate, I’m sure you know about some of the health benefits that come along with its consumption. For one thing, a recent study found a correlation between countries with higher chocolate consumption and countries with a higher number of Nobel Prize winners. Does this mean that in order to win a Nobel Peace Prize you need to eat more chocolate? Well, maybe not, but you might as well use the study as an excuse to try!

People have been looking into eating chocolate for their health for many years now, and the studies are piling up to show that dark chocolate in particular can be good for you in a number of ways:

Heart and Circulation

Many studies have shown that chocolate is rich in a particular antioxidant called flavinol. Over the years, scientists have found that the flavinols in chocolate can reduce blood pressure and have an aspirin-like effect on blood circulation (thinning the blood and thereby improving circulation). It has even been shown to improve endothelial function (helping the lining of the blood vessels work better) in smokers and in non-smokers. Overall, these studies show that chocolate, like red wine and tea, can help to keep you heart-healthy.


Chocolate does contain a minimal amount of caffeine, but the majority of the energy that comes from chocolate is from a very structurally similar molecule, called Theobromine. Theobromine causes much less of a reaction in humans than it does in say, horses or dogs (which is why dogs shouldn’t eat chocolate,) but it does still cause a mild sense of happiness, and it tends to give you a small boost of energy. That is to say, if you’re trying to minimize your caffeine intake, you shouldn’t worry about chocolate, since it contains so little, but if you’re trying to stay awake, chocolate may still help you. (On the other hand, Theobromine metabolizes differently in horses, giving them too much extra energy, and consequently, chocolate is banned in horse races!) Speaking of Theobromine, some studies suggest that the presence of this chemical in chocolate may be one of the reasons why we like it and crave it!


Theobromine is not the only part of chocolate that gives you a sense of elation. Researchers have found that chocolate might slow down the destruction of a natural chemical in our bodies called anandamide, which gives us a natural high. Usually this chemical binds to receptors in our brains and makes us feel happier, but it naturally breaks down very quickly. Two chemicals in chocolate (N-oleoylethanolamine and N-linoleoylethanolamine) are postulated to slow down this process, causing us to be happier for longer when we eat more chocolate.

Love Life

Finally, there have been some suggestions that there is a correlation between one’s love life and the amount of chocolate one eats. Namely, that chocolate is a form of aphrodisiac. Certainly, it has been thought of as one throughout history (even the Mayans ate cocoa beans to enhance their romantic experiences). Now, some research has shown that methylxanthine, a basic substance in the body (both theobromine and caffeine are examples of a methylxanthine), can help increase arousal, by blocking receptors in your brain that receive adenosine, which is what helps to make you sleepy and less aroused. So, chocolate (or just plain coffee for that matter) may indeed help your love life!


One more thing: the extra sugar in chocolate – even dark chocolate contains sugar and fat – can potentially have an adverse effect on your teeth. One study of workers at a Danish chocolate factory found that they had more teeth issues (including gingivitis) than a regular population would have. In other words, if you work at a chocolate factory watch out for your teeth! On the other hand, if you work in a chocolate factory, you’re probably eating more than the recommended “dose” of chocolate (three ounces a day.) Plus, another study shows that our old friend theobromine (found in chocolate) can do more than just give us a bit of energy and make us feel happier. It actually is shown to help reduce cavities! So there you go. Maybe the theobromine in chocolate will counterbalance the sugar! At any rate, the higher rate of teeth issues is not a reason to stay away from chocolate. You just want to be extra sure you always brush your teeth after you take that bite that will make you feel happy, healthy, and maybe even a little romantic.

There are few things I love more than baking.  Eating good food is one of those things, but a recent interest in a vegan diet has altered my food intake a bit and now the things I bake usually end up on the doorsteps of my friends and family.  (For example, a couple weeks ago, I showed up at my brother’s house with a loaf of homemade bread, a raspberry buttermilk cake and some pumpkin granola).  I realized that pretty soon people would start slamming their doors in my face, blaming me for growing wastelines.

So I decided to look into some recipes for baked goods that I would actually keep for myself.  Not only have I come up with some fantastic recipes, but with Lake Champlain Chocolates Dark Chocolate Chips and Organic Unsweetened Cocoa Powder readily available, I can throw in dark chocolate and maintain a vegan ingredients list.

First, I realized that my favorite banana bread recipe is highly adaptable.  Not only can it become vegan, but the bananas can be replaced with zucchini, carrot, pumpkin or apple, depending on what’s in season.  Throw in some chocolate chips and you have delicious dessert-like bread that you can get away with eating for breakfast.   

1 ½ c unbleached all-purpose flour
½ c whole wheat flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½  tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

½ c coffee, cooled
1/3 c oil – I like to use local sunflower oil when baking
2/3 c maple syrup
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
4 ounces silken tofu

1 cup grated zucchini, carrots, or apple, mashed banana, or pureed pumpkin
1 cup Lake Champlain Chocolates 54% or 70% chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375.  Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl.  Whisk together liquid ingredients in a separate bowl.  Add liquid ingredients to dry, mixing with a large spoon.  Add fruit or vegetable and mix to a smooth consistency.  Do not over mix.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Transfer into a greased pan, and bake 40-45 minutes.


This vegan chocolate cupcake literally made my day when I tried it for the first time.  Ridiculously dense, almost fudge-like and completely amazing, I had a hard time believing it was vegan and healthy until I made the recipe myself.  The especially cool thing about this recipe is that you can lick the spoon and not worry about eating raw eggs.

1 1/2 c sifted flour
1 c sugar
1 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp Lake Champlain Chocolates Organic, Fair Trade Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp vinegar
5 tbsp cooking oil
1 c cold water

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl.  Make three holes with your finger or the handle of a spoon, and fill with vanilla, vinegar and oil, each in a separate hole.  Pour water over entire bowl and stir.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, or about 16 minutes for 12 cupcakes.  I usually throw on some frosting made from 8 ounces of a dairy-free cream cheese, 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 ½ tsp vanilla and add confectioner’s sugar to desired sweetness and consistency.

So, take comfort in knowing Lake Champlain Chocolates Dark Chocolate can make any vegan recipe a little better.  Mmm…


The Sweet Spot, first installment

Posted on February 5, 2008 8:06 AM by Leann

Rain. Sleet. Snow. Rain. Sleet. Snow. It’s the pattern of our days outside the Lake Champlain Chocolate Factory. It’s what keeps the mountains green during our glorious summers but it’s what keeps many of us blue during our long winters. “But you can ski and snowboard!” I know. I’ve heard it all before. But when you break it down, five days a week we have to work so the argument for having fun in the snow only holds up for about 28% of the week. Luckily, I work in a chocolate factory, thus bolstering me for the other 71%. And with that note, I’d like to pay homage to the sweets that keep me going through my week. I’ll call it “The Sweet Spot” where I shall occasionally sing the praises of what delicious morsel (or morsels) got me through the day.

Today, I say thank you to two things that have set my morning off just right. My steaming hot cup of Tazo Awake and a lovely little chocolate I think I’ve mention before, the Vanilla Malt Truffle. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been in love with the Vanilla Malt Truffle but it has always been my favorite. It’s creamy milk chocolate ganache center with vanilla notes and hints of malt give it a twist just enough away from plain milk chocolate, you know it’s something special.

I know I should be eating dark chocolate because it’s good for my heart but this yummy truffle is good for my soul. Like an old friend, it’s making me feel better about my gloomy day today. And once my cup of tea cools enough to drink, I’ll be golden. So today, I salute the perfect cup of tea and my vanilla malt truffle. What’s getting you through your day today?

Health Benefits of Chocolate

Posted on December 22, 2007 1:35 PM by Greg
A chocolate bar a day keeps the doctors away!
Research Reveals: Chocolate May Be Good for You

Recently studies on chocolate have been published that illustrate the many health benefits it provides. For nearly half a decade chocolate lovers have been told to avoid this treat, but as we further our research on the everyday foods we eat, we begin to realize that we have been misled about the health-related risk-reward ratio of chocolate.

First, cocoa, the main component in chocolate, contains Phytochemicals called flavonoids also found in red wine, green tea, and fruits and vegetables. Flavanoids contain antioxidants, which are beneficial in that they block arterial damage caused by free radicals. Flavonoids are also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Chocolate contains stearic acid, which is a neutral fat that does not raise bad cholesterol and a recent study in the Journal of the American Heart Association also shows that dark chocolate might lower your blood pressure and improve insulin resistance.

Chocolate also contains Tryptophan; a chemical the brain uses to produce serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that has been proven to be an anti-depressant, as well as generate feelings of ecstasy or love, so not only can it benefit you physically, but mentally as well. Other substances, such as theobromine and phenylethylamine, have a stimulating effect.

Contrary to popular belief, chocolate only contains small amounts of caffeine. A cup of decaffeinated coffee actually contains more caffeine than the average serving of chocolate, though the misconception might stem from a popular combination of coffee or espresso beans with chocolate in many desserts and beverages.

Research also proves that candy eaters live almost a year longer than those who abstain. Similarly, a Harvard University study found that men who ate chocolate live longer than those who didn’t.

Dark chocolate, with its higher cocoa to sugar ratio may actually inhibit tooth decay and lead to fewer cavities as well as potentially whiter teeth. Milk chocolate is also on the list of least likely to cause tooth decay because of the combination of phosphate and other minerals in its structure.

Chocolate is also a good source of carbohydrates as well and is an excellent source of quick energy and a powerful fighter of fatigue. On the other hand, pediatricians are saying that there is no link between the sugars found in chocolate and restlessness or attention-deficit-hyperactivity type disorders (ADHD) found in children.

Probably the leading misconception about chocolate is that it causes acne. This has been disproved, however, by the University of Pennsylvania’s study of 65 acne sufferers. All were instructed to eat large amounts of chocolate; 46 showed no change in their condition, 10 got better and 9 got worse, results showing no direct correlation between chocolate consumption and acne.

Researchers in Oakland, California at Children's Hospital & Research Center have discovered that the same flavonoids that are also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease can limit the development of fluids that cause diarrhea. Young children under the age of five and senior citizens are the most likely to develop several health problems linked to dehydration.

It is true that chocolate contains “cannabinoids,” chemicals that have a similar affect on your brain as marijuana, a person would have to consume nearly 25 pounds of chocolate in one sitting to get “high.”

In addition, cocoa contains many vitamins including vitamins A, B1, C, D, and E, and is also the highest natural source for Magnesium. A lack of magnesium in diet has been linked to joint problems, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and pre-menstrual tension (PMT or PMS), just more reasons to increase your chocolate intake.