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Trick or Treat?  - Chocolate can be good for you?

Trick or Treat? - Chocolate can be good for you?

This time of year is filled with sweets, candies, and chocolate! Now most candies and even chocolate are packed with sugar and fat making it very high in calories and not very satisfying.  If anything they have you reaching for more!

They are not lying when you hear chocolate is good for you!  …. But there is a catch.  It is a certain type of chocolate and in a certain amount.

Specifically when you hear health guru’s say chocolate is good for you, they are speaking about dark chocolate.  Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients that can positively affect your health.

True chocolate is made from the seed of cacao trees, which are packed with some of the best antioxidants.  These antioxidants are so powerful that studies show that dark chocolate can improve your health and lower the risk of heart disease.

There are tons of dark chocolate on the shelves so which one is the healthiest but still tastes good? 

Well know that dark chocolate, sometimes called semi-sweet chocolate, has to have at least 35% cocoa to be called dark. The other 35% or less, is cocoa butter, which is the natural fat of the cocoa bean, plus added sugar, an emulsifier, or the “glue” that holds ingredients together, and vanilla or other flavorings. Some chocolates also may have milk to soften texture.  

That was a lot of information… So what should you look for on the label of your chocolate bar?

  • Aim for 70-85% cocoa content.  This will have the most antioxidants!
  • Plain dark chocolate is the best.  Unless you are adding nuts, which are also packed with health benefits.  Stay away from caramels, fillings and even fruit which may add sugar.
  • You do not need much!  Just 1oz daily gets you all the benefits which we discuss below. But make sure to subtract calories from another part of your diet to prevent weight gain.
    • Standard larger chocolate bars are around 3.5oz or about 100 grams. A good rule of thumb is to eat no more than ⅓ of the bar at a time as that is just over 1 oz
    • Depending on the brand and type, 1oz will have about 8-12 g fat, 0 trans fat per AND provides magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium and trace amounts of vitamins. 

Benefits supported by science! 

A 100-gram bar of dark chocolate with 70–85% cocoa contains

  • 11 grams of fiber
  • 67% of the DV for iron
  • 58% of the DV for magnesium
  • 89% of the DV for copper
  • 98% of the DV for manganese
  • In addition, it has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium.  

Given this 3.5 oz is close to 600 calories, but with the recommended 1 oz portion you still get ALL of these nutrients in a significant amount for your daily needs!

But this just shows even dark chocolate is best consumed in moderation.

The fatty acid profile from the cocoa butter and the dark chocolate is also good for you. The fats consist mostly of oleic acid which is one of those heart-healthy fat also found in olive oil!

Dark chocolate also contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine, but it’s unlikely to keep you awake at night, as the amount of caffeine is very small compared to a cup of coffee. But this is why you sometimes see Cocoa on supplement labels.

Alright this next part is pretty scientific but really cool as it shows how strong the antioxidants in chocolate are!

ORAC stands for oxygen radical absorbance capacity. This is a scale that measures the antioxidant activity of foods.  Simply put researchers let go a bunch of free radicals (bad things in our environment and body) against a sample of a food and see how well the antioxidants in the food can disarm are defeat the free radicals.  This is measured in a lab in a test tube so it may not have the exact same results on the human body but it is the best tool we have. BUT…..unprocessed cocoa beans are among the highest-scoring foods that have been tested! Go dark chocolate! 

Dark chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols and catechins, among others.

One study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate had more antioxidant activity, polyphenols, and flavanols than any other fruits tested, which included blueberries and acai berries!  This is why a SMALL serving can be so beneficial in your morning protein shake!

There are many more benefits to dark chocolate.  Many are heart health related such as lowering blood pressure, raising good HDL cholesterol and lowering the harmful effects of the bad LDL cholesterol. But the key is to make sure you are buying good DARK chocolate and limiting it to a 1 oz daily portion.

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