Colorado’s bunny trail

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Colorado’s bunny trail

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory crafts confections for Easter and more
Jack Parrish, senior candy maker, scrapes caramel from a copper cooking kettle at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Bodo Park.
A chocolate bunny awaits the lucky April 22 raffle winner at the downtown Durango Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory retail store.
Filled chocolate Easter eggs overflow a basket display at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory retail store in downtown Durango.
Inventory Clerk Rochanda Etsitty (right) assists Nancy Abood in packing chocolate-raspberry-filled eggs at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

Colorado’s bunny trail

Jack Parrish, senior candy maker, scrapes caramel from a copper cooking kettle at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Bodo Park.
A chocolate bunny awaits the lucky April 22 raffle winner at the downtown Durango Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory retail store.
Filled chocolate Easter eggs overflow a basket display at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory retail store in downtown Durango.
Inventory Clerk Rochanda Etsitty (right) assists Nancy Abood in packing chocolate-raspberry-filled eggs at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.
Chocolate has bright and dark sides

We know it tastes good, but is dark chocolate really that good for you?
Because it comes from a plant, specifically from cocoa beans, dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which act as antioxidants. Flavonoids are high on the nutrition radar screen, among the latest saviors to be exalted among nutrition practitioners.
When the label on your favorite chocolate bar says 50-, 60- or 70-percent cocoa bean content, the flavonoid content increases accordingly. Cocoa beans are dark, and typically the darker the vegetable, the more flavonoids. For example, sweet potatoes, leafy kale and grapes all are high in flavonoids, which goes far to explain why red wine wins points in the nutritional plus column.
Some nutritionists say that dark chocolate has eight times as many flavonoids as strawberries. Berries in general are high in antioxidants because of these flavonoids.
The specifics are complex, but the benefits of antioxidants – the big plus in eating dark chocolate – are well known and easily understood. Inflammation reduction, reduced blood pressure caused by the production of nitric oxide, and the antioxidants’ grasp of free radicals are three of the benefits associated with eating foods high in antioxidants.
Flavonoids are known to reduce blood pressure and make platelets less “sticky,” thanks to an aspirin-like effect that reduces plaque formation on artery walls. Bottom line: limited dark chocolate consumption might contribute to good heart health, Cleveland Clinic studies say, because of its antioxidant properties.
Picture free radicals as out-of-control renegades that damage cell walls and clog arteries. These products of normal digestion would go unchecked, were it not for antioxidants. Free radicals have a free electron, which makes them highly unstable and reactive. They are the body’s weapons of self-destruction.
Scientists have identified the role free radicals play in chronic disease, including some types of cancer. Nutritionists focus on how to get the biggest bang of antioxidants for the buck, so these free radicals make less of a mess.
Does that mean dark chocolate ought to be somewhere near the base of the food pyramid? Probably not. First, the processing needed to remove the naturally-occurring bitterness of cocoa beans might reduce the number of flavonoids. Chocolate manufacturers are working to develop ways to keep the flavonoids without compromising taste, but generally speaking, the more a food is processed, the more we lose the benefits of flavonoids.
The second and greater downside of consuming dark chocolate is the high fat calorie content of cocoa butter, although it does contain some “healthy” fats such as oleic acid, which is found in olive oil. Dark chocolate also contains stearic acid, a saturated fat that has a neutral effect on cholesterol. The third type of fat – palmitic acid – is the bad guy.
If you’ve been avoiding chocolate because you think it causes pimples, relax. Instead, lay off the potato chips, like your mom said.
Dark chocolate won’t keep you from having a heart attack if you’ve picked the wrong parents. But enjoying an ounce or so every now and then, along with berries, green tea and all the dark, leafy veggies you can get your hands on, won’t hurt you and likely will do your heart some good.
So go ahead, indulge your passion.

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