Does chocolate really provide healthy benefits? Here’s the scoop on what you need to know.
Studies show that cocoa and dark chocolate with a high cocoa content contain many heart-healthy antioxidants. Specifically they contain a compound called flavonoids, which may prevent the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels in the blood. There is also evidence that these flavonoids may lower blood sugar.
It is important that we are all on the same page here, not all chocolate have these health benefits. The healthy flavonoids found in chocolate are found in the cocoa butter and cocoa solids. Milk chocolate is diluted with milk and sugar and contains little amounts of these substances, therefore providing fewer health benefits.
The darker the chocolate, the higher the cocoa content and the more antioxidants it contains. The quality of the chocolate you consume is also important. The cocoa butter is quite pricey so less expensive brands will replace the cocoa butter with milk fats and hydrogenated oils which are bad for our health. Look for high quality chocolates with their main ingredients being cocoa butter and cocoa solids. You can also look on the label for 70% dark chocolate. Unsweetened cocoa powder is one of the purest forms of chocolate you can eat and is lower in fat and calories than other chocolates.
Although this is great news for all chocolate lovers, don’t forget that most chocolate (unless you use unsweetened cocoa powder) does still contain sugar and saturated fat. One of the studies used a little more than one chocolate bar a day (1.7 ounces), which increases sugar, saturated fat and calories significantly (we’re talking up to 400 calories). Will a smaller serving size like half ounce of dark chocolate provide the same benefits? The verdict is still out.
One ounce of dark chocolate has 1.5 teaspoons of sugar and offers a low glycemic load, a measure how quickly that sugar converts to blood sugar. It also contains 19% iron. Not a terrible way to take care of that sugar craving. Future research is needed to evaluate if eating smaller amounts of dark chocolate will provide similar health benefits.
Here are some great tips to enjoy chocolate while working towards your health goals.
- Enjoy a cup of hot chocolate. It still has calories and sugar, but it is hot which slows you down so it is more satisfying.
- Keep some dark chocolate miniatures around like Dove Dark Chocolates. When you get a sweet craving have one small chocolate and eat it slowly. It is most often the fact that we eat things too fast that we don’t feel satisfied leaving us wanting more. Practice eating slow especially treats!
- Use a little chocolate sauce with some fresh strawberries or bananas.
Chocolate does come from plants so it won’t be surprising to see if chocolate continues to show positive results with future research.
About the Blogger:
Meri Raffetto is the founder of Real Living Nutrition, an author, triplet mom and dog butler. Learn more on our team page.