Guest blogger: Stephanie DiRocco, MS, RD, LDN, Clinical Nutrition Manager, UMass Memorial – HealthAlliance Hospital
Valentine’s Day has arrived, which means those boxes of chocolates, chocolate covered fruit and other sweet treats will be hard to avoid.
However, chocolate’s reputation is on the rise. Recent studies have suggested limited consumption of chocolate can provide health benefits. Is your Valentine’s Day chocolate a healthy indulgence or is this an age-old myth?
Milk chocolate typically contains sugar, milk, cocoa solids and cocoa butter. This type of chocolate is filled with more milk and sugar than dark chocolate, and while high in calcium, milk chocolate has more fat and sugar in it than dark chocolate. Milk chocolate provides potassium and some vitamins. Eat in limited amounts.
White chocolate contains the least nutritional value. In fact, most white chocolate does not really contain chocolate or cocoa. Made up of milk, sugar and very small quantities of cocoa butter, white chocolate has very little nutritional value and should be avoided or eaten in limited amounts.
When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Dark chocolate usually contains 45 to 85 percent cocoa solids; dark chocolate with at least 60 percent cocoa solids provide the most health benefits. Because it is the least processed chocolate, it’s generally accepted as the most nutritious of all chocolates, being rich in antioxidants, providing cardiovascular benefits through reduced inflammation, and improving cognitive function and mood. Dark chocolate is healthy to eat in small amounts daily.
Tips for healthy dark chocolate consumption:
- Limit to a 1-ounce serving a day.
- Consume dark chocolate after a meal to avoid over indulging.
- To satisfy a sweet tooth craving, have a piece of fruit with dark chocolate.
- Take your time when eating dark chocolate – eat it slowly and be mindful so you fully enjoy the flavors.
There are potential health benefits to consuming cocoa. But chocolate, whether your choice is dark, milk, or white, all are relatively high in calories and added sugar. Chocolate should be enjoyed in moderation, as excessive intake could lead to weight gain, putting an individual at risk for becoming overweight or obese.
Join the conversation. Do you eat dark chocolate? Have you tried the flavored chocolates, such as those with chili powder or blueberries?