Healthy Chocolate? Absolutely!

13 Feb

chocolateValentine’s Day is here and the grocery aisles are full of that glorious decadence that we call chocolate!  Sure, chocolate and candies have been the downfall of many a diet, but that doesn’t mean you have to shut them out of your life completely. While the candy aisle can be incredibly overwhelming, there are options that fit into any healthy meal plan.

Now, you can’t just go and grab any old chocolate bar off the shelf. There are “better” types of chocolate out there that have great health benefits.   Let’s compare our top four options:

  1.  Milk Chocolate:  High in sugar, saturated fats and milk solids, dismally low in cocoa and containing preservatives and flavorings, store-bought milk chocolate is designed for overeating, which can quickly push you beyond your calorie needs and put you on a blood sugar roller-coaster.
  2. 70% cocoa chocolate:  Often referred to as the ‘healthy’ chocolate, 70% cocoa chocolate contains considerably more cocoa and less sugar than its milk chocolate relative. Some ‘raw’ chocolates may use evaporated cane juice instead of sugar, and flavonoids in cocoa have been linked to cardiovascular health.
  3. White Chocolate:  Would you like chocolate with your cocoa butter? While more expensive white chocolate does contain the cocoa butter, it is devoid of cocoa solids, which typically qualify ‘chocolate’ and deliver the health benefits associated with choccie.
  4. Unsweetened Chocolate:  As the name suggests, unsweetened chocolate contains no added sugar and can be bitter. However, it’s among the healthiest forms of commercial chocolate. It also works in chocolate savory dishes – think South American cuisine.

Bottom Line:  GO DARK!  The higher the cocoa content, the more health benefits you’re going to get from that sweet treat.  Do yourself a favor though and always check the sugar content before you indulge.  When possible, try to avoid milk solids, corn syrup, soy solids (except lecithin, which will likely be included), artificial sweeteners and colorings. That ensures you’re getting the most health benefits with the least amount of sugar.

Now, you’ve decided you want a treat and you’ve figured out which type to go with.  Still feeling unsure?  Maybe a little guilty?  Not for long.  I keep stating these mysterious “health benefits” that come specifically from darker chocolate so let’s get to it:

A 100 gram bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa contains:

  • 11 grams of fiber.
  • 67% of the RDA for Iron.
  • 58% of the RDA for Magnesium.
  • 89% of the RDA for Copper.
  • 98% of the RDA for Manganese.
  • It also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.

The fatty acid profile of cocoa and dark chocolate is excellent. The fats are mostly saturated and monounsaturated, with small amounts of polyunsaturates.  It also contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine, but is unlikely to keep you awake at night as the amount of caffeine is very small compared to coffee.

Dark chocolate is also loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols, catechins, among others.

Finally, your heart loves (moderate amounts) of dark chocolate.  The bioactive compounds in cocoa can improve blood flow in the arteries and cause a small but statistically significant decrease in blood pressure.  It can also improve several important risk factors for heart disease by lowering the susceptibility of LDL to oxidative damage while increasing HDL and improving insulin sensitivity.

This Valentine’s Day (and everyday), remember that you don’t have to completely give up your cravings, but you don’t have to give in completely to your sweet tooth either.  Choose wisely, indulge in moderation, and enjoy that delicious dark treat.

~Dayna
PX Studio

 

Article Sources
Eat This, Not That
Women’s Health and Fitness
Authority Nutrition

 

 

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