Public Release:  Chocolate treats for the heart

American Chemical Society

Who knew that chocolate -- the traditional Valentine's Day gift -- had so much more to offer the recipient than simply a token of someone's affection? Of course, like most enjoyable treats, the "food of the gods" should be embraced in moderation, but research suggests that chocolate may have some redeeming health features. The good news was presented at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

Cure for heartaches. And this doesn't just mean reveling in a box á la Bridget Jones when lonely. According to several scientists, chocolate contains polyphenols -- chemical compounds renowned for their heart-helping properties. Polyphenols, which are present in a chocolate bar in about the same quantities as in a glass of red wine, have been shown to prevent LDL cholesterol (the 'bad' cholesterol) from oxidizing into a form that damages arteries. In addition, Joe A. Vinson, Ph.D., professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton, in Scranton, Pa., says that chocolate has been shown to "raise good cholesterol 10 percent, therefore lowering the risk of heart complications by 20 percent." That should make your heart swell with love!

Cancer-fighter, the darker the better! Antioxidants, found in everything from green tea to bread crust, are commonly believed to fight cancer. Cocoa's antioxidant capacity tops that of long-trusted sources like strawberries and garlic. Vinson has determined that cocoa liquor, the derivative of the cocoa bean used in milk and dark chocolates that is absent from white chocolate, contains most of the antioxidants. Rich, dark chocolate lovers should celebrate: the darker the chocolate, the more antioxidants. Not only does chocolate contain a large quantity of antioxidants, Vinson discovered that chocolate contains high quality antioxidants. "The higher quality the antioxidants, the more work they can do," Vinson explained. "We've found that the antioxidants in dark chocolate are higher quality than even vitamins C and E."

Chocolate Truffles

Ingredients
6-½ oz bittersweet chocolate chopped in small pieces
6 ½ oz heavy cream
Melted and tempered bittersweet chocolate for dipping

Directions: Bring cream to a boil. Pour onto chocolate pieces and stir until melted and smooth. Refrigerate overnight. Scoop with size 100-portion control scoop (small sorbet scoop) and place on parchment lined sheet. Freeze for 2 hours. Dip in melted chocolate and chill until set. Serve at room temperature for best flavor and texture.

Molten Chocolate Cake

Ingredients
7 oz bittersweet chocolate
7 oz butter
7 oz confectioner's sugar
4 eggs
4 egg yolks
1 ½ cups cake flour
Pinch salt

Directions: In double boiler, melt chocolate, butter and confectioner's sugar. Whip salt, eggs and yolks in mixer until lemon yellow. Pour in melted chocolate and whip. Stir in sifted cake flour. Pour into greased 4 oz. ramekins and bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. Turn out onto dessert plates and serve warm.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: The two chocolate recipes are courtesy of the American Chemical Society's historic Belmont Conference Center in Elkridge, Md. An historic manor built in 1738, Belmont is located on 85 acres of rolling hills and fields, surrounded by Patapsco State Park, about 35 miles from Washington, D.C. Open year-round, Belmont is available for meetings, retreats, training seminars, weddings, company picnics and holiday receptions.

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