By: Deborah Moss, RD, CDN
While it may seem too good to be true, dark chocolate can actually be good for you. When consumed in moderation, dark chocolate has some powerful health benefits:
Cocoa, which is used to make both milk and dark chocolate, is rich in plant nutrients called flavonoids. Flavonoids protect plants from environmental toxins, and act as antioxidants in the body. Antioxidants help the body’s cells resist damage from free radicals, destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments. The higher the amount of cocoa in the chocolate, the higher the amount of flavonoids will be present in the chocolate.
Some research suggests that flavonoids from chocolate may help lower blood pressure and protect your heart. Eating chocolate may also help improve cognitive function by increasing the amount of oxygen and blood flow to your brain. The cocoa content in chocolate is also known to help improve your mood by boosting your brain’s supply of serotonin and endorphins. Serotonin acts as an anti-depressant, and endorphins are chemicals in the brain that bring on feelings of pleasure.
Before you grab a piece of chocolate, it’s important to note that not all forms of chocolate are created equal.
- Dark chocolate contains the highest amount of cocoa, and it is also the least processed. In general, the higher percentage of cocoa, the less sugar content.
- Milk chocolate, however, is often loaded with extra fats and sugars. Studies have also shown that milk interferes with the absorption of the antioxidants from chocolate, and therefore negate the potential health benefits from eating moderate amounts of chocolate.
Stick to plain dark chocolate that contains at least 70% or more of cocoa, and avoid those types of chocolates with extra ingredients such as caramel or marshmallow that can add a lot of extra fat and calories.
Eating healthy doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your favorite sweets in moderation, but remember that dark chocolate still contains a lot of fat and calories. Watch your portion sizes and limit chocolate consumption to no more than 1 oz. per day.
Deborah Moss is a registered dietitian and certified dietetic nutritionist. She is the owner of Natural Nutrition and Wellness, a private nutrition counseling practice that specializes in women’s health and wellness, specifically focusing on weight management and the integration of nutrition for disease prevention and management. Deborah graduated from Queens College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition. She completed a dietetic internship program through LIU, CW Post. She has presented nutrition and wellness classes associated with diabetes, heart disease and weight management to numerous clients through corporate wellness programs. Deborah’s goal in counseling is in helping others achieve a healthier and more balanced life.
For any diet and nutrition questions, contact Deborah at nnwellness.com!