World Chocolate Day – The Health Benefits of Chocolate

 

Health Benefits of Chocolate

 

I am a self-confessed chocolate addict. I absolutely love it. There is nothing better to me than getting time to sit down, read a book and enjoy my favourite chocolate. Some of my all-time favourites include bounty bars (what could possibly be better than coconut and chocolate? On a side note, the Bounty easter egg chocolate is probably some of the best that I have ever tasted), Galaxy and Duchess bars. I have only found Duchess bars in Cyprus and they are this amazing mixture of chocolate fudge and biscuit, coated in chocolate. I am also partial to a chocolate chip muffin (or seven). A few weeks ago I was planning out content for the blog, when I came across a post that said July 7th was World Chocolate Day. I cannot tell you the excitement I had. Any excuse to allow me to bake my favourite chocolate cake and celebrate all things chocolatey. The celebration of World Chocolate Day is only a recent addition to the calendar and some sources cite it as a celebration of the introduction of chocolate into Europe in 1550. Whatever the reason for celebrating, I think that having a day dedicated to chocolate is a genius idea!

If you read right to the end, I have included a chocolate cake recipe which really is the BEST cake recipe in the world. It is super easy to make, stays moist for several days (if it lasts that long) and tastes amazing.

 

Health Benefits of Chocolate

 

Health Benefits of Chocolate

 

I am always looking for new ways to justify my constant chocolate consumption. My diet isn’t the healthiest due to my love of sweet things and the large portions I eat, so I am sure that I am not getting many health benefits from chocolate (except for the release of serotonin I get when I am eating it) but there are some great health benefits associated with eating it in moderation.

 

1. Can Improve Brain Function

In 2012, a study conducted in the University of Nottingham found that chocolate boosted blood flow to particular areas of the brain for several hours, which in turn helps increase focus and protect the brain from ageing. If you are like me and like to know that recommendations are evidence-based, there was a study conducted in 2013, which was published in the Journal of Neurology which found that eating a moderate amount of dark chocolate daily can boost your memory by up to 30%.

 

2. Soothes Coughs

Cocoa contains theobromine which acts as a suppressant and studies have suggested that it is more effective than codeine in suppressing coughs.

 

3. Helps with Upset Stomachs

Some studies suggest that moderate amounts of dark chocolate have the ability to soothe upset stomachs and some gastrointestinal issues.

 

4. Heart Health

Dark chocolate without unhealthy additives can be great for heart health. Studies have shown that if chocolate is consumed in moderate amounts it can thin the blood in a similar fashion to a low dose of aspirin. Thinned blood can help prevent blood clots, which in turn can reduce the risk of a stroke. Chocolate can also help reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and protect the arteries.

 

5. Great for the Immune System

Chocolate can help boost antibodies and the t-cells which are responsible for fighting off infection and kick-starting the immune system. In addition to this, chocolate is full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

 

Not All Chocolate is Equal

When looking at which chocolate is best for your health, it is important to look at those that have a cocoa content of 70% or higher. The rule of thumb is the darker the chocolate, the higher the flavonoid content. Flavonoids are found in foods like broccoli, onions, fruit and tea and there has been research that suggests they can help prevent heart disease and certain types of cancer. Another benefit of dark chocolate is that it is considered a low GI food and therefore, it is a great snack to help you get longer periods between meals and helps with cravings.

Whilst there are many benefits to chocolate, it is important to remember that it is still considered a treat and should we start consuming it in large quantities under the guise of the health benefits, it is actually counterproductive. It is best to have small amounts as treat.

 

The Best Chocolate Cake Recipe – Ever!

Last year, I was looking for a cake recipe for a client’s birthday and I came across a variation of this recipe. I have made it many times, passed it on to others and it has yet to fail me. It is quick and easy to make, moist and the taste is incredible. We made it this morning in honour of World Chocolate Day and the kids are so excited to eat it for dessert later on.

 

The Best Chocolate Cake Ever

If you are looking for a chocolate cake that is quick and easy to make and will have people talking about it for ages, look no further. 

Course Dessert
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 12 people

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, almond or coconut milk see note below
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 cups icing/confectioners sugar
  • 5 teaspoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350º F or 180º C. Butter and lightly flour two 9 inch cake tins 

  2. Add the cocoa powder to the bowl and mix well with a stand mixer to ensure all lumps are removed. 

  3. Add all the dry ingredients to the cocoa powder and combine well. 

  4. Next add the milk, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla together and then add to the flour mixture. Mix at a medium speed. The mixture may be thick and stiff at this point. 

  5. Carefully add boiling water and mix thoroughly. The cake batter will be very runny and water like. Share the batter evenly between the two tins.

  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Check that the cake is fully cooked by inserting a skewer into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean it is ready. 

  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes. Then remove the cake from the tin and place on a wire rack until cooled completely. 

For the Buttercream Frosting

  1. Add the cocoa powder to the bowl and mix to ensure there are no lumps.

  2. Cream the butter and cocoa powder. Once fully combined, mix on a high speed for one minute.

  3. Add one cup of icing sugar and mix. Once fully mixed add one tablespoon of milk. Repeat this process until all the icing sugar has been added. If the frosting seems to be too stiff, you can add a little more milk to thin it out. 

  4. Finally add the vanilla extra and mix thoroughly. 

Recipe Notes

If you cannot find buttercream, slightly warm a cup of milk and add a tablespoon of lemon juice to the milk. Mix well and it will begin to curdle the milk. You can then use this is place of buttermilk. 

 

Whatever way you spend your World Chocolate Day, I hope you enjoy every mouthful of it.

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