I'm making a confession. I am one of the stealth chocoholics. That is bad news and good news-the bad news is that like you, it can be tough for me to turn down a sample of the creamy confection. On the good side, chocolate has health benefits.
Now I am not saying you can have all the chocolate you want. I want to share with you how chocolate can help with your goals to include foods that are good for you as ingredients in your diet. Chocolate begins with the cacao beans. It's the cacao beans that are the key in creating the good-for-you factor. These beans are rich in plant nutrients called flavonoids, which protect the cocoa plant. The primary type of flavonoids found in cocoa and chocolate are flavanols which have antioxidant properties. Research has shown that these flavonals have positive affects on health. Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E help protect healthy cells from substances called free radicals which can attack health cells. These nutrients are also found in red wine and green tea.
There are several types of chocolate which contain varying amounts of cacao beans and flavanols. Bittersweet or dark chocolate contains the most generous amounts from higher cacao content chocolate. The higher the percentage of cacao in the chocolate, the greater the benefits and nutritional value. For example, an average 65% dark chocolate serving would look something like this (these are estimates, as actual numbers will vary, depending on brand, size, etc.):
Total Fat 15 g, Sat. Fat 9 g, Sugars 16g, Protein 3g.
In comparison, an average 99% dark chocolate serving would look something like this (these are estimates, as actual numbers will vary, depending on brand, size, etc.):
Total Fat 22 g, Sat. Fat 14 g, Sugars 2g, Protein 5g.
As the percentage goes up on the cacao content, the less sugar and more protein you'll find.
You may also notice the higher fat content -don't worry, most of it comes from healthy fats. (yes, you can find healthy fats in chocolate!)
Benefits of dark chocolate include:
-High antioxidant content---it is an antioxidant powerhouse.
-It can have positive affects on maintaining heart health
-It can help lower blood pressure
-It can aid in maintaining healthy arteries that are relaxed and flexible, thus increasing blood flow.
-It may reduce insulin insensitivity and lower the risk of diabetes.
-A greater feeling of fullness or satiety which can reduce cravings for sweet and salty foods.
Consumption of chocolate and other flavanol rich foods like red wine and tea can also reduce stress and increase performance on cognitive tests.
This sweet indulgence can also tip your scale toward the heavy side. Choose a dark chocolate with cocoa content of 65 percent or higher. Limit yourself to 2 or 3 ounces (56 to 85 grams) a day, this will add between 300 to 450 calories to your diet. You may want to cut back on calories from some other food or boost your exercise to make sure you can add the chocolate and maintain a healthy weight.
A little chocolate goes a long way and it's health benefits can soothe your conscience if you're you are reluctant to fess up to enjoying this guilty pleasure.
TAKE AWAY: It's a good thing to be able to enjoy foods that give you pleasure. The caveat is to remember too much of a good thing can easily become less enjoyable and that is true of chocolate. It contains calories and overindulgence with pack the pounds on.