Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
Fancy making your own homemade chocolate bark over the holidays and experiment with different flavours? Why not give this recipe a go?
Who loves chocolate? The good news is that dark chocolate provides nutritional benefits! It is made from the seed of the cocoa tree and is full of antioxidants. Dark chocolate contains a high level of minerals including iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese, fibre and selenium – all of which are important to health and fertility. In fact, the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you, as dark chocolate contains less sugar- try to choose chocolate which contains 70% cocoa and above where possible.
How is dark chocolate beneficial to health and fertility?
Dark chocolate has been shown in studies to have a significant amount of flavanols, providing protective benefits in relation to insulin sensitivity, lowering cholesterol, heart health and blood pressure. Dark chocolate releases beta endorphins, which are neurochemicals that cause a feeling of well-being and reducing stress and has been shown to aid memory, which is important for brain health.
When it comes to fertility, dark chocolate has been shown to support male fertility as it is a rich source of the amino acid L-arginine which in studies have been linked to improving sperm count and motility. The amino acid L-arginine is a component of the molecule Nitric oxide. Nitric oxide has the ability to expand small blood arteries, allowing more blood to flow to the nearby organs. This amino acid can also support female fertility in a similar way -helping increase the flow of blood to the ovaries and uterus.
Dark chocolate is an excellent source of antioxidants, which can help the health of sperm and egg cells by ‘zapping’ free radicals which can cause damage to the DNA of the cells, helping to prevent cell ageing.
Fertility issues and treatment can be very stressful indeed on both the body and mind. The magnesium in dark chocolate helps to reduce stress as Serotonin (a chemical that nerve cells release which helps to stabilise mood, feelings of wellbeing and happiness) depends on magnesium for its production and function.
Consuming dark chocolate may reduce cravings for refined sugar which is crucial in the management of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is an underlying cause of PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). In women with PCOS, insulin resistance can disrupt the monthly cycle of ovulation and menstruation and increase the risk of developing diabetes.
So, chocolate lovers enjoy! but not too much! – 2 squares (30-60g) per day max!
You will need:
300g bar of dark chocolate (70% cocoa and above)
Flavourings of choice eg zest of lime, orange or lemon, chilli flakes, pinch of sea-salt, pink peppercorns
Fruit and/or roasted nuts of choice eg Blueberries, raspberries, gogi berries, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds chopped small.
How to make:
Break the chocolate into small pieces and place into a heatproof bowl and then onto the top of a boiling water and stir until the chocolate has melted.
Line a baking tray with baking paper. Stir into your chocolate your chosen combination of nuts/flavouring/fruit. Give it a good stir and then pour into the baking tray. Spread the chocolate mixture evenly and sprinkle a little more of your chosen combination over the top.
Place into the fridge for 3 hours or until set and enjoy your homemade chocolate bark – the equivalent of 2 squares a day! (store the rest in a container with a lid in a cool, dark cupboard.
Fancy some interesting reading?
Katz DL, Doughty K, Ali A. Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2011;15(10):2779-2811. doi:10.1089/ars.2010.3697
Crozier, S. J., Preston, A. G., Hurst, J. W., Payne, M. J., Mann, J., Hainly, L., & Miller, D. L. (2011). Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit”: A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products. Chemistry Central Journal, 5, 5. http://doi.org/10.1186/1752-153X-5-5