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Got a Chocolate Craving? Dark Chocolate Has Health Benefits

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Got a Chocolate Craving? Dark Chocolate Has Health Benefits

“I just HAVE to have a little chocolate!” It’s the phrase I hear most frequently when speaking with people about their dietary indiscretions. Whether you consider it an indulgence, a craving, a necessity, or simply a state of bliss, chocolate is a part of our diet. But it’s typically high in heart-unfriendly saturated fat and calories so how do we make it work?

Is chocolate healthy?

Many of us are hoping, almost clinging to the research indicating that chocolate contains healthful phytochemicals that are good for the heart. Certainly, it is true that the high levels of flavonols found in cocoa and dark chocolate can help fend off heart disease, diabetes, dementia and stroke. It is also, however, not an excuse to polish off a block or two. It will always be more beneficial to eat an apple or a strawberry—any fruits and vegetables that are packed with fiber, vitamins and other phytochemicals and also low in fat and calories.

What is a portion of dark chocolate?

First, choose chocolate that is as dark as you can tolerate and enjoy. Most studies show that 70 percent or higher cocoa content is the goal to get some of these health benefits. So what’s a portion? Just one ounce is recommended. That one ounce of 70-85 percent dark chocolate has about 170 calories and 12 grams of fat, which can fit into Cooper Clinic’s and American Heart Association’s recommendations. We just don’t have the dietary budget for the entire bar!

The sense of chocolate…

Another option to consider might be the chocolate substitutions—foods that contain a little bit of chocolate or give you that chocolate fix without all the fat and calories. Here are some chocolate alternatives that may help you satisfy that craving:

  • 10 small chocolate meringue cookies (approx. 110 calories)
  • 1/2 frozen chocolate dipped banana (75 calories) Dole® Dark Chocolate Banana Dippers 100 calorie packs can be found in the freezer section!
  • Chocolate Tootsie pops (60 calories)
  • Kashi® Chewy Granola Bars Cherry Dark Chocolate (120 calories) This ia a great guilt-free snack that has 4 grams of fiber, too!
  • Peanut Butter & Co. Dark Chocolate Dreams (170 calories, for 2 tbsp)
  • Glenny’s Brownies (100 calories) Also provides great fiber and protein!
  • Old fashioned hot cocoa (100 calories—when made with skim milk and 2 tsp of unsweetened cocoa powder) There are also sugar free versions for 25-50 calories, if desired.
  • Chocolate sorbet (130 calories, 1/2 cup)
  • Low fat chocolate milk (140-170 calories per cup) It's like being a kid again!

All of the above choices may meet that chocolate 'need' and be just a little bit healthier too. Try to have several options available that have different textures and temperatures to best fit your food mood. And when it’s time to enjoy that dark chocolate square, keep it to a one ounce serving and then, the best advice of all—take the time to relax, sit, smell and savor the rich indulgence and joy that even a little bit of chocolate provides!

Article provided by Meridan Zerner, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, registered and licensed dietitian at Cooper Clinic. For more information on nutrition consultations call (972) 560-2655 or click here.