Anyway. So…before we go overboard and start buying out every store’s supply of dark chocolate I should preface with that fact that the “recommended” serving size is 7 oz. per week (about 1 oz. aka 2 Tablespoons per day). I put ‘recommended’ in quotation marks for obvious reasons. But hey, it’s a good goal.
So WHY choose dark chocolate?
- Contains flavonoids which are a type of antioxidant that may prevent cell damage in your body
- Helps to decrease LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol oxidation
- Can reduce the risk of blood clots
- Assists in increasing blood flow in arteries and the heart
- May lower blood pressure
- Cocoa may have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels because it contains mostly stearic acid and oleic acid. Steric acid is a saturated fat, but unlike most saturated fatty acids it doesn’t raise blood cholesterol levels. Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fat and may even reduce cholesterol.
- May improve mood and pleasure by increasing serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain (Ummm true. Chocolate always brightens my mood)
- Contains a number of minerals (such as: calcium, magnesium and potassium)
Dark chocolate is also called “bittersweet” or sometimes “semisweet” chocolate. It contains a higher percentage of cocoa solids, usually more than 60%, and little or no added sugar. Usually they recommend trying to choose dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa. What qualities should you look for when choosing dark chocolate?
- More than 70% cocoa (or at least >60%)
- Made from cocoa butter instead of fats such as palm or coconut oils. Cocoa butter does have a fair amount of saturated fat (as steric acid) but steric acid has been shown to have a neutral effect on cholesterol unlike the saturated fat in palm and coconut oils.
- Made without “hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated” oils which negatively affect cholesterol
- Darker is better, phytochemicals, like flavonoids, contribute to pigment (color) more flavonoids means darker chocolate and possibly greater health benefits.
Healthy ways to include dark chocolate in your diet.
- To avoid over-indulging eat a small portion of dark chocolate after a meal as opposed to when you are really hungry
- Have a piece of fruit prior to eating dark chocolate to help satisfy your sweet craving
- Take your time – eat slowly and mindfully and enjoy it, don’t just scarf it down (note to self…)
- Try dipping fresh fruit in melted dark chocolate – perfect dessert
- Mix dark chocolate with a little bit of natural peanut butter…is there any better combo than chocolate and pb? I think not.
Information taken from: http://www.med.umich.edu/umim/food-pyramid/dark_chocolate.htm