healthy cooking

Beyond a Sweet Treat: 7 Perks of Dark Chocolate

Beyond simply tasting delicious, a dose of dark chocolate adds a variety of health perks that are sure to have your body (and taste buds) thanking you! The good-for-you properties actually come from the minerals and antioxidants found in the cocoa, hence why the darker the chocolate (think 70% or higher), the better for your health. 

7 Perks of Dark Chocolate


1. Enhances Brain Function.
 Yup, it’s true - a small dose of dark chocolate may help you think better. Dark chocolate is naturally rich in the stimulants caffeine and theobromine, two compounds that can add a short term boost to overall brain function. Theobromine has been found to improve focus, concentration and visual processing of information. Dark chocolate may also improve blood flow to the brain.

2. Rich in Antioxidants including Polyphenols, Flavanols, and Catechins. The darker the chocolate, the more antioxidant power, which means the more perks for your health!

3. Decreases Cancer Risk. The antioxidants found in dark chocolate have been found to neutralize free radicals that increase the risk of cancer. Therefore, enjoying a dose of dark chocolate can help decrease cancer risk.

4. Improved Heart Health. Researchers have linked the flavonols in cocoa to decreasing cholesterol levels, blood pressure and arterial plaque.

5. Lowers Blood Pressure. The flavanols in chocolate have been found to support the production of nitric oxide, which in turn helps relax blood vessels and improve blood flow.

6. Mood-Boosting. This one comes as no surprise, but there is scientific evidence that supports the fact that dark chocolate really does make people happier. Not only does it add a sweet treat, but it will help boost endorphins, lifting your mood.

7. Bonus Nutrients. While dark chocolate doesn't provide a significant amount of essential nutrients, it is rich in iron, fiber, copper, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus.

And don’t forget there is no BAD food. Everything can be enjoyed in moderation.

One Sheet Pan Tuscan Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs chicken breasts skin on, cut into halves if needed to make each piece equal in size (For a healthier version, remove the skin before cooking)

  • 12 oz small new potatoes, sliced 

  • 8 oz button mushrooms

  • 1 yellow onion, sliced

  • 3-4 cloves fresh garlic, minced

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes

  • 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes

  • 1 cup green, or black olives, pitted

  • 2 Tbsp avocado oil, or olive oil, divided

  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

  • 1 Tbsp raw honey

  • 1 tsp oregano

  • 1 tsp thyme

  • 2 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped for garnish

  • sea salt & pepper, to your taste 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350f.

  2. Line a baking tray with foil, then place the chicken breast in the middle and the potatoes on the sides.

  3. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp oil, and season generously with sea salt and pepper.

  4. Roast in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes.

  5. In a large bowl, add in the mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, sliced onion, garlic and sun dried tomatoes.

  6. Drizzle remaining oil, balsamic vinegar, raw honey and add all the seasonings. Mix well to get all veggies coated.

  7. Once the chicken is almost cooked, add the veggies mixture to the sheet pan, and roast for an additional 10 minutes, or until the chicken is golden brown and fully cooked.

  8. Remove from the oven and garnish with fresh thyme and season to your taste.

  9. You may keep it in the fridge for a max of 4 days for food prep.

Enjoy!

by Rachel Maser @ cleanfoodcrush.com

Tips for Creating Healthy Dining Habits

  1. Fill up on fiber and lean protein. 

    A meal high in protein and fiber can help keep you satisfied and prevent overeating. Use the Fast Casual Cheat Sheet in this newsletter, to help identify best meals to fill you up!

  2. Be stingy with the extras. 

    Things like bacon, cheese, mayo, and salad dressings will not only add to your food bill but also add unnecessary calories and fat to your meal.

  3. Watch out for the sneaky salad toppings. 

    While salads can be a nutrient-packed meal, they can also be higher in calories, fat and sodium than a hamburger. Fancy toppings like cheese, bacon, salad dressing, dried fruit, nuts, and croutons can really add up.

  4. Substitute sides. 

    Most restaurants default to serving fries, chips, onion rings, bread or mashed potatoes as their side. Often these are eaten out of habit and not because you are really hungry and need the extra food. Ask if you can substitute the high-calorie side dish with a side salad and light dressing, steamed veggies, baked sweet potato or a fresh fruit cup.

  5. Embrace the flavors of baked, broiled, grilled chicken or roasted lean meats.

    Avoid fried and battered foods as they are high in calorie, fat and sodium. By shifting your mindset to embrace the flavors of baked, broiled, grilled chicken or roasted lean meats you are opening yourself to a new relationship with food.

Vegetable Minestrone Soup

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 2 large carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)

  • 2 stalks celery, sliced (about 1 cup)

  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

  • 4 cups Vegetable Broth

  • 1 can (about 15 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained

  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained

  • ¼ cup uncooked pearl barley

  • 2 cups firmly packed chopped fresh spinach/Kale


Heat the oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery, and onion. Cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender-crisp, stirring occasionally. Stir in the broth, beans, tomatoes, and barley and heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 30 minutes or until the barley is tender. Stir in the spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted. Season to taste.

Instant Pot White Beans

Cooking beans in the Instant Pot is super fast.
This basic recipe is perfect for flavorful beans that can be used in many ways. Try them in White Bean Hummus, White Bean Pesto Pasta, and White Bean Veggie Burgers.
It’s quick to make, cheaper, healthier and more flavorful than canned beans!

Total time: 35 minutes, Prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 (1-lb.) bag Camellia Brand Great Northern Beans, rinsed and sorted

1 tablespoon onion powder

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1-2 teaspoons salt

1 bay leaf

6 cups unsalted vegetable broth, chicken broth, or water

Directions:

Add all ingredients to the Instant Pot.
Cover, twist to lock the lid, and turn the valve to seal.
Press the Beans/Chili button.
When the timer beeps, allow the pressure to release naturally for at least 20 minutes.
Then, turn the valve to vent.
 

Enjoy cooked beans over rice, or use as you would canned beans. If not using right away, store beans along with any excess liquid, in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to one week, or freeze for up to 6 months.

 Makes 6 servings

Recipe by Camellia Brand