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Health, Nutrition, Science

How a Chocolate Indulgence can be Good for You! (but not your dog)

Chocolate lovers beware: Reading today's blog could be beneficial to your health!

Chocolate is the nation’s favourite indulgence. Every year we collectively chomp our way through four Olympic stadiums worth of the stuff.

Today’s blog is all about enjoying chocolate and leaving the New Year’s resolutions for another day. Research shows that the healthy chemicals from chocolate will soon be making their way into the next generation of cold and flu medicines. But be warned… this choco-extract is the same chemical that makes chocolate poisonous to cats and dogs.

I’ve prepared an irresistible chocolate recipe so you can test out chocolate’s healing powers at home. And just so the pet dog doesn’t feel left out, there is something in here for Fido too!

Researchers Uncover Chocolate’s Healing Powers

Every winter time, journalists love to make us feel better about our chocolate-excesses; apparently chocolate “is healthy“, “prevents brain damage”  and even ‘cuts risk of heart attack‘! In this age of ever increasing obesity, surely we should be cutting back? A quick look at the facts says yes, we should… 

I won’t sugar-coat the truth: Chocolate is high in fat, high in calories and really isn’t very good for you. Yes, chocolate does contain a good measure of cancer-fighting antioxidants – you could get similar health benefits from a bowl of muesli and blueberries. How depressing…

Antioxidants in food can help our body fight cancer. Hands up for who would prefer a bar of chocolate?

But despair ye not you chocoholics! I was delighted to read that researchers have ‘discovered’ what many of us suspected all along: Chocolate really can have the power to heal! Chocolate contains a chemical called ‘Theobromine’; which lowers blood pressure, strengthens the heart beat and treats coughs.

That’s right; those late-night chocolate binges may have been doing you some good after all (well that’s what I’m going to tell myself)! A brand new cough remedy is already under development that promises to push ‘Night Nurse’ off the top spot. Called BC1036, it works better than other cough remedies and has the added bonus that it doesn’t make you drowsy.

Most effective cough remedies contain codeine; which causes drowsiness. New theobromine-based medicines won't have this effect.

It could be several years before this new drug hits the market (and they’re definitely going to have to work on the name), so I thought I would provide a tasty home-cooked alternative. It also contains soothing honey and lemon and I promise it will give you the ultimate ‘theobromine’-choco-hit!

And if you don’t have a cough, just pretend you do and enjoy…

Your Homemade Chocolate Remedy: Honey and chocolate soufflé with hot chocolate sauce

Dark chocolate and cocoa contains the most theobromine and antioxidants

Ingredients

For the soufflé

  • butter, for greasing
  • 2 free-range egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • ½ lemon, juice only
  • 50g/2oz dark chocolate, melted and left to cool slightly
  • 3 free-range egg whites

Use a round souffle dish to ensure even heating for a symmetrically risen souffle!

For the hot chocolate sauce

  • 50g/2oz dark chocolate
  • 50ml/2fl oz double cream
  • icing sugar, to dust

Preparation method

1. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7 and place a baking sheet into the oven. Butter a small ovenproof dish and dust with caster sugar.
2. Place the egg yolks, sugar, honey and lemon juice into a large bowl and whisk together until pale and frothy. Fold in the melted chocolate.

Whisking egg whites turns the egg protein into a microscopic lattice that captures expanding air and lets the souffle rise!

3. Place the egg whites into a large clean bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed. 4. Carefully fold the whisked egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then spoon into the prepared dish until the dish is three quarters full.
5. Place the dish onto the preheated baking sheet, transfer to the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until well risen.
6. Meanwhile, for the hot chocolate sauce, place the chocolate and cream into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water and heat, stirring frequently, until melted and combined to make a smooth sauce.

Yummy...

7. To serve, dust the soufflé with icing sugar and pour over the hot chocolate sauce.

Serves 1-2… (depending on hunger)

To the health-conscious, I’ve calculated the calories and nutritional information here (but I suggest you don’t read it)!
.

Homemade ‘Chocolate’ Treats for Pets

Remember: a pet is for life, not just for Christmas. So don’t go feeding your pet chocolate – even if they do have a nasty cough! Theobromine is a poison to cats and dogs because their liver is unable to break it down effectively. Just few chunks of chocolate will end up with Bruno keeling over with a heart attack and seizures. So if you want ‘Man’s best Friend’ to join in the seasonal fun; here’s a ‘chocolate’ treat recipe for pets that will keep your favourite puppy happy (and alive)

Carob tastes similar to chocolate, but is safe for domestic animals. You can buy it online or from health food shops.


Ingredients

  •  2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • 1 cup of carob chips / broken carob pieces
  • 1 cup of peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
  • 1 cup of milk (can be low fat)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of honey

Method 
 1. Combine the flour and baking powder in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl combine the peanut butter, milk, eggs, and honey. Mix well until combined.
 2.Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix with a hand beater. After the ingredients are mixed add the carob chips, just until combined.
 3.Preheat your oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Using teaspoons or a tablespoon drop the mixture on to an ungreased baking sheet. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes.
 4. When they are baked to the consistency of biscuit/cookies remove from the baking sheet and place on a cooling rack.

Another satisfied customer...

How did it go?

If you have any notable successes (or failures) with these recipes, or if you have any other chocolate remedies – feel free to comment below…
.

Read More:

A previous blog ‘Can you cure the Common Cold?‘ looked at the evidence for lots of different cold cures.

Learn more about the science of making a good souffle

More about Theobromine:

Learn more about theobromine at Wikipedia

Read a factsheet about the theobromine cough remedy here

Read more about antioxidants:

Discover the antioxidant value (ORAC) of different foods at oracvalues.com – the higher the value the better!

Find out more about what an antioxidant is here

Read more about Chocolate:

Read about the dangers of giving chocolate to pets here: here and here

Is chocolate really a health food?

Some great chocolate trivia here

Find out which cocoa bean varieties Cadbury like to use

The Recipes:

 Souffle Recipe adapted from Nick Nairn‘s souffle recipe

Dog Treat recipe adapted from About.com

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About Stuart Farrimond

I love writing about science and health subjects. Strange, because I also teach the same things. I trained as a medical doctor before turning my hand to other things. Shortlisted for The Guardian/Observer for Science Writer of the Year 2011 and editor for Guru Magazine I also like to grow large pumpkins...

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