Monday, February 22, 2010

Dark Chocolate

Here is the latest email from Dr. Jacobs.

Okay, for all of you who have been thinking, “All of these health people – all they do is tell me what NOT to eat and what NOT to do!”, here is an article for you:

Dark Chocolate Please
Even though Valentine’s Day has come and gone, you may have a few delightful chocolate treats leftover from one of those special heart shaped boxes. You will be happy to know that those tasty little chocolates may be packed with some potential health benefits. Mounting evidence links some types of chocolate with these benefits:
•Improved cardiovascular health
•Lower blood pressure
•Increased insulin sensitivity
•Cancer prevention
•Elevated mood

The Natural Wonders of Chocolate

What is it that makes chocolate so wonderful other than the obvious creamy texture and rich flavor? Chocolate is special because it is full of antioxidants. One cup of hot cocoa has up to three times the antioxidants found in a cup of green tea and about twice the amount in a glass of red wine. However, not all forms of chocolate reap equal health benefits. Dark chocolate and cocoa (cocoa content of at least 70%) are the heavy hitters in the chocolate line-up due to their high levels of flavonols. Flavonols have been shown to help ward off certain diseases. Also, dark chocolate is far less processed than milk and white chocolate and contains less sugar.

You can however get too much of a good thing. Since, all chocolate is high in calories and fat, it is best to eat only small portions. Even with the health benefits of chocolate, it does not take the place of eating your fruits or vegetables. A good alternative is to include some other flavonol rich foods paired with one (yes, one) square of chocolate.

•Tea and coffee and moderate amounts of red wine

Nutrition at a Glance

One ounce of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa contains:
•160 calories
•11 grams fat (7 grams saturated fat)
•14 grams carbohydrates (3.5 grams fiber)
•3 grams protein

Chocolate and cocoa naturally supply minerals such as magnesium, copper, and potassium. Though not a low fat food, dark chocolate is lowest in fat and sugar than other forms of chocolate.

Myths and Facts
•Chocolate is not high in caffeine. An ounce of dark chocolate has 28 mg of caffeine compared with 95-140 mg in a cup of coffee.
•Chocolate is not linked to tooth decay; in fact the tannins in dark chocolate may actually reduce this dental problem.
•Chocolate cannot cause addiction. If you or someone you know is a “choc-o-holic” that just means you have a strong preference for the taste, texture, and aroma.
Here are some delicious ways to get your chocolate fix:
•Have a bite-sized piece of dark chocolate
•One packet of low-fat hot cocoa mix
•Chocolate covered strawberries: 1 ounce dark chocolate melted over whole strawberries (try with grapes, dried apricots, and banana slices)
•Nonfat dark chocolate pudding
•Add cocoa powder to a smoothie made with banana, yogurt, frozen berries, and a touch of honey
Chocolate recipe substitution:
•When a recipe calls for chocolate, use dark chocolate or better yet cocoa powder.
•To substitute 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate, use 3 tablespoons of dry cocoa plus 2 tablespoons sugar plus 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.

Bottom line, a little bit of chocolate goes a long way. Just ¼ ounce or 30 calories a day of dark chocolate has been linked to lower blood pressure, without causing weight gain. Currently, there is no recommended serving size of chocolate to reap heart healthy benefits. So go ahead and eat small amounts once in and enjoy every morsel.

By Elana Zimelman, R.D., L.D., C.D.E., Cooper Clinic Nutrition.
Just remember – moderation!

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