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Pass the Chocolate Please

Valentine’s Day is around the corner and conveniently February is also National Chocolate Month. Chocolate is a decadent and delicious treat in all of its many forms and flavors. It’s hard to pass up the simple pleasures found in that little heart-shaped box, and now you don’t have to! If you’re a “chocoholic,” there’s sweet news for you! Mounting evidence links some types of chocolate with health benefits. Consider these morsels derived from consuming just a little bit of chocolate in your diet.

Chocolate may:

  • Improve cardiovascular health
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increase insulin sensitivity
  • Help prevent certain cancers
  • Elevate mood

The Natural Wonders of Chocolate

Chocolate is chock full of antioxidants! One cup of hot cocoa has up to three times the antioxidants found in a cup of green tea and about twice the amount in a glass of red wine. But remember, not all forms of chocolate reap equal health benefits. Dark chocolate and cocoa (cocoa content of at least 70 percent) are the heavy hitters in the chocolate line-up because of their high concentration of flavonols which have been shown to help ward off certain diseases.

Dark chocolate contains less sugar and is also far less processed than milk and white chocolate. But all chocolate is high in calories and fat so enjoy it in bite-size portions. Beyond chocolate, check out these other sources of disease-fighting flavonols:

  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Beans
  • Onions
  • Tea and coffee and moderate amounts of red wine

Chocolate Nutrition at a Glance

One ounce of dark chocolate with 70-85 percent cocoa contains:

  • 160 calories
  • 11 grams fat (7 grams saturated fat)
  • 14 grams carbohydrates (3.5 grams fiber)
  • 3 grams protein

Chocolate Myths and Facts

  • Chocolate is not high in caffeine. An ounce of dark chocolate has 28 mg of caffeine compared with 95-140 mg in a cup of coffee.
  • Chocolate is not linked to tooth decay, in fact the tannins in dark chocolate may actually reduce this dental problem.
  • Chocolate cannot cause addiction. If you or someone you know is a “chocoholic” that just means you have a strong preference for the taste, texture and aroma.

Bottom Line: A Little Bit of Chocolate Goes a Long Way

Just ¼ ounce or 30 calories a day of dark chocolate has been linked to lowering blood pressure. One quarter of an ounce looks like two squares broken off a regular size Hershey’s Chocolate Bar. Currently there is no recommended serving size of chocolate to reap the heart healthy benefits. If you want the benefits without the calories try adding cocoa powder to your diet.

Delicious Ways to Get Your Chocolate Fix

There are numerous ways to enjoy dark chocolate as an occasional treat:

  • Bite-sized piece of dark chocolate
  • One packet of low-fat hot cocoa mix
  • Chocolate covered strawberries: One ounce dark chocolate melted over whole strawberries (try with grapes, dried apricots and banana slices)
  • Fat free dark chocolate pudding
  • Add cocoa powder to a smoothie made with banana, yogurt, frozen berries and a touch of honey

Chocolate recipe substitution: 

  • When a recipe calls for chocolate, use dark chocolate or better yet, cocoa powder.
  • To substitute one ounce of unsweetened chocolate, use three Tablespoons of dry cocoa plus two Tablespoons sugar plus one Tablespoon of vegetable oil.

Happy Valentine’s Day and here’s to chocolate!

For more information on Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit our website or call 972.560.2655.

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