Chocolate, the Sweet Truth

021417.pngHave you heard that chocolate can be beneficial for your health?  Is there such a thing as healthy chocolate? Chocolate’s reputation is changing. Many studies suggest that it can be a heart-healthy choice…in moderation. Several beneficial health compounds found in cocoa are flavanols, theobromine, and antioxidants.  Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate. Research shows that flavanols have influences on blood flow, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot.  Theobromine is another heart-healthy compound found in chocolate.  Theobromine has been used to treat high blood pressure.

Antioxidants in chocolate?

Antioxidants are believed to help the body’s cells resist damage.

Antioxidants are found in many foods. These include wine, berries, nuts, grains, some meats, poultry, fish, fruits, and vegetables. When we eat foods rich in flavonoids, it appears that we also benefit from this “antioxidant” power.

Are all chocolates healthy?

Cocoa naturally has a very strong taste, which comes from the flavanols.  When cocoa is processed into your favorite chocolate products, it goes through several steps to reduce this taste. The more chocolate is processed (through things like fermentation, alkalizing, roasting, etc.), the more flavanols are lost.  Choose dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate and look for bars with low saturated fats.

How much is right for me?

There is currently no established heart healthy serving size for chocolate. However, you no longer need to feel guilty if you enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate from time to time. If you want to add chocolate to your diet, do so in moderation.

How to choose the right chocolate:

  • Choose dark chocolate with cocoa content of 65 percent or higher
  • Skip the White and Milk Chocolate. These can have high amounts of sugar and fat
  • Some chocolates can be as high as 450 calories per serving, be cautious
  • Portion size should be limited to around 1 to 3 ounces (85 grams) daily, which is the amount research has shown to be helpful
  • Try eating other flavonoid-rich foods like apples, red wine (in moderation), tea, onions and cranberries.

 

Mindy’s Chocolate Strawberry Shake

For a chocolatey, low calorie breakfast or after workout recovery drink that is filling and good for your heart, try this:

  • 8 oz. Low Fat Milk
  • 1 scoop of Chocolate Protein Powder
  • 4 Large Frozen Strawberries
  • 1-2 hand fulls of Fresh Baby Spinach Blend together in bullet blender or hand blender and drink! You can’t taste the spinach!

Nutrition Facts: 244 Calories, 2.4g Fat, 24g Carbs, 3g Fiber 34g Protein, 235mg Sodium, 20mg Cholesterol

Hospitality Dietitian: Mindy Diller, MS, RDN, LD : mindy.diller@ttu.edu 

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