Saint Louis University

BLOG: Choc O lot

Author: Jennel Mikula
Published: Tuesday, February 21 2012

You know that box of Valentine’s Day chocolates that are still sitting in your desk drawer or on your table because you are trying to eat healthy? Well good news, eating chocolate can be good for you!

Saint Louis University Dietetic Interns on chocolate

Now of course, not all chocolate is good for you, but with a little help you will be on the right path to satisfy your chocolate craving without ruining your diet. There are generally 3 main types of chocolate that are consumed which include white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate.

If there is one type of chocolate to avoid, it is white chocolate! When chocolate liquor is pressed, the fat can be removed and is called cocoa butter which is the primary ingredient of white chocolate. Along with this cocoa butter fat, white chocolate contains milk, sugar, and other ingredients to flavor it therefore making white chocolate a very fattening treat that contains little minimal nutritive value.

Milk chocolate is not your best choice either. Milk chocolate is a sweet chocolate that contains milk powder or condensed milk. Unlike white chocolate, milk chocolate does contain cocoa solids, just not as many as dark chocolate. Milk chocolate has the same nutritive properties as white chocolate for the most part since manufactures add so much sugar and milk to flavor it.

The best option is dark chocolate. Dark chocolate, with its high cocoa content, is a rich source of flavonoids and epicatechin. Epicatechin is an active member of a group of compounds called plant flavonoids. Flavonoids are antioxidants that keep cholesterol from gathering in blood vessels, reduce the risk of blood clots, and slow down the immune responses that lead to clogged arteries. Therefore, flavonoids help control blood pressure and protect the heart when consumed in small amounts. Dark chocolate’s theobromine and phenethylamine can also affect serotonin levels in the brain to uplift your mood and induce a feeling of well being. However, that is still no reason to go overboard.

Saint Louis University Dietetic Interns on chocolate

Although dark chocolate is good for you, just remember to balance the calories and use moderation. A king sized, 100-gram serving of Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Bar has 531 calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Consuming only 1-2 pieces of Dove dark chocolate minis every other day should suffice for the beneficial effects of dark chocolate. M and M’s, peanut butter cups, or excessive amount of dark chocolate can cancel out the antioxidant benefits with the extra calories and saturated fat and can lead to weight gain.

Other healthier chocolate options do exist to feed your chocolate craving rather than just eating a regular milk chocolate candy bar such as in the freezer section of your grocery store. Skinny Cow ice cream, fudge bars, and ice cream sandwiches run at about 100 calories and are a good portion of ice cream, not to mention delicious.

Another option if you are a chocolate cake lover is to make the “Diet Coke Cake” as a better substitute. The “Diet Coke Cake” recipe calls for 1 box chocolate cake mix with 1 can of diet coke (any diet cola works). Mix together, bake as directed, and let it cool. Yes, this actually works! The reason this recipe is healthier than a regular cake mix is because you are not adding the usual oil and eggs to the mix which typically adds calories. When it is ready to eat, just add fat free cool whip and strawberries and I can guarantee you this will be your new favorite cake recipe. This also works with 1 Angel food cake mix and 1 can of diet Sprite or 7-Up.

Saint Louis University Dietetic Interns on chocolate

So what is the point? Of course chocolate is not a heath food and should not be eaten to gain the maximum amount of nutrients possible, but in moderation chocolate may have some benefits. Remember to eat chocolate in moderation, go for dark chocolate, and pick healthy alternatives to satisfy your chocolate cravings. So, open up those Valentine’s Day chocolates and enjoy!

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