Dark Chocolate Nutrition
If you have a sweet tooth or consider yourself a "chocoholic" you can relax and enjoy the dark cacao variety. There are health benefits associated with the consumption of dark chocolate. We have all been told to avoid sweets because they are not good for you. Now there is one sweet you can indulge in!
Dark Chocolate has Health Benefits
Watch the Calories
However, one word of caution - dark chocolate is high in calories so overindulging is ill advised. You must always remember that balance and moderation is key so limit your intake of this treat to reap the benefits and avoid the drawbacks.
So how much is enought? Eating a small dark chocolate bar daily can be quite good for you so keep curb your intake to no more than this.
Why is dark chocolate beneficial to your health? There are many reasons.
One of these healthy reasons is that dark chocolate is a powerful antioxidant that battles those free radicals responsible for our aging process. It is also low on the glycemic index keeping our blood sugar stable and this in turn helps keep us trim. It protects the heart from disease and it can also act as a brain booster! These are a few of the great reasons to add dark chocolate to your diet.
Milk chocolate does not have same health benefits because it contains a lower concentration of cacao. Cacao is the superstar here and dark chocolate contains lots of it! However not all dark chocolate is equal. Cacao is the active ingredient in chocolate that makes it healthy and provides the nutritional benefits. The higher the percentage of cacao in the chocolate the better. Dark chocolate varieties contain the most cacao.
Check the label - you should be consuming dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao to realize the benefits.
How does dark chocolate do all these great things? Read on!
Why is Dark Chocolate Healthy?
Dark chocolate is good for you because It is chock full of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect your healthy cells from the detrimental effects of free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable molecules in your body that are primarily responsible for aging; tissue damage and some diseases. These molecules bond with healthy cells and damage them and as you age your natural protection diminishes.
Therefore getting more antioxidants through your diet is important. The cocoa contained in dark chocolate actually contains more antioxidants than healthy foods such as blueberries and green tea!
Low Glycemic Food
Dark chocolate is rich in "flavanols" which are the antioxidants described above. But flavanols also play a greater role than just fighting off free radicals. They help to restore the cells ability to allow sugar to enter the cells from the bloodstream so it can be used for energy.
Dark chocolate has an glycemic index rating of only 23. This is very low. Low glycemic foods with an index of 55 or less when consumed keep the blood sugar levels steady. Keeping your blood sugar levels steady is critical to avoid developing diabetes and to maintain a healthy weight. It also helps to increase your energy levels.
The consumption of dark chocolate has been shown to reduce the inflammation that is associated with the development of heart disease and the reduction is significant!
Chronic Inflammation has a strong connection to the development of heart disease so the ability to reduce this inflammation is a great health benefit. C-reactive protein levels in blood cause this inflammation and studies shows that people who eat dark chocolate regularly have much lower levels of this protein in their bloodstream.
The recommendation is one small chocolate bar per day (about 6.7 grams or 0.23 ounces), no more than that is recommended. There is one caution, dark chocolate is a high fat food, some of this fat is saturated but as long as it is eaten in moderation, the healthy benefits are not lost. It is still worth adding dark chocolate to your diet.
Dark chocolate has been shown to have an effect on the brain and in a good way. It doesn't put you into a chocolate induced fog but actually quite the opposite!
Researchers have revealed that consumption of dark chocolate significantly increases blood flow to the brain. The increase of blood flow is thought to increase alertness and memory for at least a few hours.
It appears that a dark chocolate bar is a good treat to consume when you need to concentrate for a few hours perhaps during an exam or working on a project at work. This research has implications for treating vascular related disorders such as stroke and dementia. Flavanols are again the ingredient that is responsible for these benefits and dark chocolate is rich in flavanols!
Healthiest Dark Chocolate
Lindt brand dark chocolate is a favorite of mine. One of the things I like best about it is how easy it is to break off into smaller pieces. The bar is made up of small squares, and breaking off a couple is the perfect little treat to satisfy your chocolate craving. It has a good chocolate taste without the bitterness.
Try it yourself you won't be disappointed. I like the 70 % cocoa variety but it does come in 85% and 90%. Remember the higher the percentage of cocoa the healthier the chocolate.
The Taste of Dark Chocolate
It's true that dark chocolate is not as creamy or sweet as milk chocolate. But milk chocolate shares none of the healthy benefits. Dark chocolate is an acquired taste. However, if you allow the chocolate to melt slowly in your mouth the creamier chocolate flavors will be unleashed. You just have to know how to enjoy it.
Dark chocolate should always be brought to room temperature - a cold bar becomes brittle and unappealing.
When purchasing dark chocolate be certain it contains at least 70 percent cacao (cocoa). Anything less than this will not provide the same health benefits, in fact quite the opposite. More and more chocolate companies such as Hershey are now producing dark chocolate bars that are readily available at the local supermarket. It just makes sense to pick up that dark chocolate bar instead of the sugary milk chocolate version.
Dark Chocolate Recipes
Hot Chocolate Drink
Here is a recipe for homemade hot chocolate made with healthy ingredients. I hope you will try it, its one of my favorites.
4 cups soy milk or almond milk
3/4 cup dark chocolate, chopped coarsely
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt (to taste)
1. Using a small saucepan, combine ingredients
2. Using a whisk stir over medium low heat until the chocolate has melted and mixture is steaming hot.
3. Ready in about 5 minutes
How to Make Dark Chocolate
Do you like dark chocolate?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Sharon Bellissimo