Chocolate is my weakness. I love it. I can eat chocolate in all it’s wonderful forms – dark, milk, white, sweet, savory. If it’s chocolate, I’ll eat it. In case you haven’t noticed, chocolate is having its rebirth and is now being marketed as having nutritional benefits. That’s great news for chocolate lovers everywhere.

Apparently, chocolate contains compounds called polyphenols, which scientists are investigating for their potential impact on health. Chocolate is made from cocoa beans grown on cocoa trees called theobroma cacao. Like several other plant-based foods, it therefore contains polyphenols, a group of compounds which act as "antioxidants." It has been thought for some time that antioxidants may be potentially beneficial to health.

Early research suggests that the polyphenols found in chocolate may help to maintain the body’s natural defenses and cardiovascular health. Today, you can find high-quality chocolate just about everywhere, but organic fair trade is truly the best. Dagoba Chocolate Company offers superior fair trade organic chocolate bars. Ecco Bella makes a chocolate bar called "Health By Chocolate," which touts the benefits of the antioxidants found in chocolate. As the story goes, the darker the chocolate, the more antioxidants the chocolate contains.

I’m thrilled by all of this new research. Now when I reach for a little antioxidant supplement out of my cookie jar, I can feel at ease that each chocolate chip is fueling my body with a little sweet bite of health.

Cocoa Chipotle Tofu over Mexi Greens
A Spicy and light vegetarian entrée

Cocoa Chipotle Tofu
1/2 cup orange juice
4 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons Byerly’s Chipotle Pepper Powder
2 cloves garlic, minced (1 tbs)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 pounds White Wave Extra Firm Tofu, drained
Spray oil for cooking

In a bowl, combine all ingredients except tofu; mix well. To prepare tofu, slice lengthwise into four equal portions. Stack the slices and cut diagonally into triangles. Place the 16 triangles into a medium-sized plastic bag. Add marinade and refrigerate three hours or overnight. Preheat grill or broiler at medium-high heat. Spray grill rack or broiler pan with vegetable oil. Place tofu on the rack or pan; brush with a little of the marinade. Grill or broil for 8 to 12 minutes, turning once or until slightly blackened. Discard remaining marinade. Set aside and prepare greens.

Mexi Greens
3/4 cup Newman’s 2000 Island Dressing
1 teaspoon Byerly’s Chipotle Pepper Powder
3 organic hearts of romaine, chopped
1 1/4 cup organic frozen corn-thawed
1 (15-ounce) can organic black beans, drained
1 cup green onions, sliced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 pint organic cherry tomatoes
1 yellow or red bell pepper, julienne
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/2 pound Eichten Chipotle Gouda, cut in 3/4" cubes
1 cup tortilla strips

Combine dressing with chipotle pepper. Toss with romaine, corn, beans, green onions, cilantro, tomatoes, peppers, almonds and cheese. Divide between 4 to 6 plates. Top each plate with 3 to 5 pieces of tofu and garnish with tortilla strips.
Serves 4-6.

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Bea James is Senior Whole Health Manager at Lunds and Byerly's. She is a member of the USDA National Organic Standards Board, member of the International Association of Natural Products Producers, and Chair of the Food Marketing Institute Natural Foods Committee. Bea is a long time chef appearing on local radio and TV to advocate organic foods, as well as former deli manager of two Twin Cities Natural Food Co-ops. She can be reached for organic questions at bea.james@lfhi.com Copyright © 2005 Bea James. All rights reserved.

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