Archive for August, 2012


Dark Chocolate

Lindt 90 per cent Cocoa Dark Chocolate Bar

We girls often resort to chocolate to soothe a broken heart. Turns out, chocolate is actually good for your heart but not just any chocolate, just the best kind — Dark Chocolate! Before you gulp down a bar, I like have done before, remember that moderation, doctors say, is the way to go.

Why has Chocolate been getting so much positive press?

Chocolate has been getting positive press  lately because it is believed to have the ability to protect our cardiovascular system. This ability is thought to stem from cocoa bean’s richness in flavonoids, a class of plant nutrients. Flavonoids not only help protect plants from toxins in the environment, they also help repair damage. When we consume flavonoid-rich foods, we also leverage its “antioxidant” power!

Antioxidants help the body resist damage caused by free radicals formed during the body’s regular processes, such as breathing, and also from environmental pollutants like cigarette smoke. If the body lacks the antioxidants it takes to combat oxidation, free radicals could cause it harm. For example, in the event of increased oxidation, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) may form plaque on the artery walls.

The main type of flavonoids found in chocolate is flavonols. Apart from its antioxidant properties, flavonols are said to have other amazing benefits — they lower blood pressure, improve the flow of blood to the heart and the brain, and help blood platelets become less sticky and able to clot.

Other foods rich in flavonols are cranberries, peanuts, apples, red wine, tea and onions.

What kind of chocolates are good for you?

SwissLindt and Toblerone are now selling chocolate bars with extremely high cocoa contents. These brands tend to contain much higher flavonoid levels than American candy bars. But, they do not match up to cold-pressed natural chocolates.

Natural: Natural chocolate makers sauch as Dagoba and Xocai sell superior healthy dark chocolates. While Dagoba takes the organic route, Xocai uses a cold manufacturing process. Dagoba offers an 87 per cent cocoa bar, while Xocai promises a full 100 per cent of flavonoid nutrients regardless of the percentage of cocoa in its natural chocolate products. Also, its unprocessed chocolate bars do not contain processed sugars.

Enhanced: Combining dark chocolate with foods such as almonds or blueberries could enhance the level of nutrients you can get. But remember that this could mean additional calories so once again moderation is what comes to the rescue!

Both Xocai and Dagoba add acai berries to some of their chocolates. Swiss chocolate makers usually add hazelnuts, almonds, honey and other healthful  foods. Healthy chocolate  could be added to other antioxidant rich foods too. For example, Almond manufacturer Blue Diamond sells an almond milk beverage that is fortified not just with vitamins A and E, and calcium, but also heart-healthy chocolate!

What about all of the fat in chocolate?

The fat in chocolate comes from cocoa butter. Cocoa butter contains the same amount of  oleic acid (a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil), stearic and palmitic acids. Palmitic acid and Stearic acid are kinds of saturated fat.  You may have heard that that saturated fats are linked to increases in LDL cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.

Research indicates that stearic acid has a neutral effect on cholesterol, neither raising nor lowering it. Palmitic acid does affect cholesterol levels, but it only makes up one-third of the fat calories in chocolate.

So, chocolate is not as bad for you as you would have once thought. But still, it needs to be eaten in moderation.

Primary Sources:

Heart and Vascular Health & Prevention — clevelandclinic.org

Types of Healthy Dark Chocolate –Livestrong.com

Lunch boxes simply rock! Anybody battling weight or cholesterol issues will enthusiastically second that. Though most of us love the concept, we get lost in the hectic pace of our workdays and never get around to actually cooking and packing lunches. Beginning with this blog, Lean Streak will give some simple ideas that could help you make healthy and hearty homemade lunches happen.

Lean Lunch Box Idea 1: Whole Wheat Penne with Tomato Sauce and Roasted Vegetables

Whole Wheat Penne with Tomato Sauce and Roasted Vegetables

Lean Lunch Box: Whole Wheat Penne with Tomato Sauce and Roasted Veggies

I love this pairing because though the cooking involves a few steps, it is passive cooking. What I mean by that is that you don’t have to be around as the tomato sauce reduces over the stove or the vegetables roast in the oven. Of course the pasta may need a little more attention but that’s only a matter of 10 minutes or so. This kind of passive cooking allows you to plug away at other chores or chat away with family while playing Top Chef.

Method of preparation: Everybody has a favourite tomato sauce recipe, use yours. What I do is saute half a chopped onion with a fat pod of garlic (crushed) and half a teaspoon of chilli flakes. Once the onions cook, I add in three chopped Roma tomatoes (or one and a half large Steak tomatoes) and about six-seven basil leaves. I season with salt and pepper and let the sauce cook for at least half an hour. Then, I  puree it. If you are using a blender, and not an immersion blender, don’t forget to let the tomato-onion mixture cool before you blend. If the sauce is too thin, reduce it further over a  flame.  The measurements I mentioned usually work for about three servings. However, it is best to make a large amount of tomato sauce at a time because it’s so damn versatile.

Cook the whole wheat / brown rice pasta of your choice in boiling salted water. For this meal, I used whole wheat penne. Also, roast whatever vegetables you like with your pasta. I like starting my veggies off on the stove and transferring it to the oven. This saves time because the veggies cook while the oven heats up. But of course, roasting seasoned and lightly oiled veggies wholly in the oven is perfectly fine too. For this meal, I roasted baby asparagus, green beans, carrots and brussels sprouts at 500 F (260 C).

Toss the cooked pasta in tomato sauce and top it with roasted veggies!

Having lived in the United States for several years and having travelled extensively within the country, I have eaten, and continue to eat, a LOT of American food. Though I LOVE my Southern barbecue and my New York Style Pizza, my FAVOURITE American food has to be the Louisiana Creole classic JAMBALAYA!

A self-proclaimed Jambalaya lover, I began cooking Jambalaya from the box! Judge me all you want but as a rookie cook, Zatarain’s Jambalaya Mix was a quick fix for the Jamba junkie in me. Over the years, my culinary prowess has increased considerably (my husband will attest to that :) ), enabling me to make a pretty kick-ass Jambalaya. Today I blog a recipe for a healthier Jambalaya that uses brown rice but is just as delicious.

For eight servings, you will need:

Five tablespoons of olive oil

One and a half medium-sized onions, chopped fine

Three fat pods of garlic, chopped

A generous pinch of oregano

Three bay leaves

Two jalapenos, chopped

Two cups of brown rice

Four cups of low-sodium chicken broth / water or a mix

Five ripe Roma tomatoes, chopped small

Half a green bell pepper + half a red bell pepper, chopped

Four boneless chicken thighs, cubed

One and a half sausages, chopped (Andouille prefered, I used Chourico)

Four handfuls of frozen squid cut into rings (Shrimp is commonly used)

Paprika, one tablespoon

Red chili powder, one tablespoon (You could use ground pepper instead)

Hot sauce, one tablespoon

Worcestershire Sauce, one tablespoon

Salt, to taste

Handful of Coriander leaves / cilantro, chopped

Two green onions, chopped

Method of Preparation:

Coat the bottom of a pot / dutch oven with a thin layer of olive oil and heat over a medium flame. Add in a generous pinch of oregano, bay leaves, chopped onions, jalapenos and garlic. Stir occasionally. Once the onions brown, add in pieces of four tomatoes. Keep one for a little later. Once the tomatoes become tender, add in the bell pepper pieces and the rest of the tomato pieces. Add in the chicken and sausage pieces. After a couple of minutes, add in the squid rings and stir in the brown rice. Add in the water/ broth, salt, paprika, chili powder and  the sauces, and let in cook over a low to medium flame for about 40 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the liquid is reduced. Taste and adjust for salt.

Once cooked, stir in the chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) and serve hot. Bon Appetit!

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