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Delicious Advice About Dark Chocolate and Your Health

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  February 13, 2014 04:50 PM

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Source:  Eating Well Magazine
What’s not to love about chocolate? According to an article in Appetite, chocolate is the most commonly craved food among women. (No surprise here.)

Chocolate melts just a tad below body temperature so it literally and lusciously “melts in your mouth.”  To top it all off, since chocolate is made from the cocoa beans of the Theobroma cacao fruit tree, it is rich in flavonoids, more specifically, flavanols, which are phytochemicals and antioxidants that can be heart healthy.  

Antioxidants counteract oxidation, a harmful chemical reaction that takes place in your body.  For example, antioxidants can  help to protect the “bad” LDL cholesterol from becoming oxidized and contribute to the hardening of the arteries and heart disease.   In addition to being an antioxidant, flavanols have other heart-healthy properties.  Studies suggest that cocoa flavanols may help lower blood pressure.  High blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease.   Even though milk chocolate, black tea, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, grapes, apples, and strawberries also contain flavanols, dark chocolate, by far, contains a higher concentration of this phytochemical.

Before you start passing out the chocolate bars in celebration, the million dollar question is exactly how much dark chocolate should you eat as sweet treat for good health?  The exact amount of dark chocolate that can be enjoyed to reap heart healthy benefits isn’t currently known.  However, soem research suggest that 1/2 ounce to one ounce weekly could be beneficial.  

Is there a downside to consuming this amount of dark chocolate?  There could be.  An ounce of dark chocolate provides 170 calories.  If you don’t compensate for these calories elsewhere in your diet, there could be an extra 2 1/2 pounds of you on the bathroom scale by year’s end.  A decade of noshing on chocolate could add up to an extra 20 pounds.  Since obesity increases the risk of heart disease, eating lots of chocolate weekly may not appear to be such a sweet idea.

It may make better sense to use dark chocolate to replace an existing weekly dessert choice, such as ice cream, cake, or cookies.  To avoid over-consuming dark chocolate, consume it with low calorie, flavanol-rich fruit to help you keep to a more reasonable, one ounce portion and also gain a bonus of  additional flavanols from the fruit. 

Try this:

1.    Melt dark chocolate in a microwavable bowl.
2.    Place a variety of flavanol-containing fruit, such apple slices, blueberries, and strawberries on
       a dessert plate.
3.    Dip the fruit into the ounce of melted dark chocolate.

Double Bonus tip Brew up a cup of black tea to add more flavanols to your healthy dessert.

Be well, Joan

Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake

Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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