Mediterranean Diet 101

Dark Chocolate Health Benefits

dark chocolate hbDark chocolate is one of the rare treats that can be eaten without feeling guilty for cheating on a diet. Health benefits of dark chocolate are numerous and many people can benefit from eating this great food - just be careful about amounts ...

First of all, when discussing about chocolate, one must know few things:

- cocoa powder is the nonfat (or low-fat) part of the cocoa bean, which is grounded into a powder

- chocolate liquor is the ground or melted state of the nib of the cocoa bean and contains both cocoa solids and cocoa butter in roughly equal proportion

- cocoa butter is fat extracted from the cocoa bean

'Ordinary' chocolate is produced by mixing cocoa (cacao) powder with fats (cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, vegetable oils etc) and sugar to produce various kinds of chocolate. In such chocolates, cocoa percentage is rarely above 20-30%. This type of chocolate tastes as sweets (and it is 'sweets') and should be avoided since it is loaded with sugar and unhealthy fats. It does have some healthy fats, minerals etc, but if you consider amounts of unnecessary calories, simply avoid such chocolates.

Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

dark chocolate hb2Dark chocolate consists mostly from cocoa solids - there is no exact USA rule about amounts of cocoa solid in the dark chocolate, but in Europe it is set to at least 35% of cocoa solids. Even better, practically all chocolate manufacturers state amount of cocoa powder in their chocolates and it usually ranges from 70 - 99%. Of course, if you want to eat 100% dark chocolate, that take a spoon and enjoy pure cocoa powder :o)

Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants that protect human body and promote health and overall wellbeing. Gram for gram, dark chocolate and cocoa have more antioxidants than foods like green tea, blueberries and similar 'famous' foods. Of course, dark chocolate also has much more calories per gram when compared with blueberries, blackberries, broccoli etc.

Dark chocolate is also great for heart and arteries health - healthy fats combined with other macro and micro nutrients found in dark chocolate help protecting arteries and keeping them flexible and free from blockages, they reduce blood pressure and the amount of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). Of course, if you have similar problems, this is not 'green light' for eating a pound a day of dark chocolate - piece of chocolate here and there will help, but beware of excess calories ...

Depending on other ingredients, dark chocolate can be very low on sugar (or it has no sugar at all) and can have very low glycemic index - similar to that of, for example, oatmeal. So, eating dark chocolate will not cause blood sugar spike.

Fats found in dark chocolate are, more or less, healthy ones and can help human body in many ways to function properly. Also, there are other minerals and compounds found in dark chocolate like copper, magnesium, iron, theobromine, phenylethylamine, caffeine etc - compounds that are responsible for the pleasurable feelings we get after eating chocolate - among other, they help releasing endorphins in human brain.

Dark Chocolate Nutritional Info

Dark chocolate content varies, so does it content. Generally, 100g 80-85% dark chocolate bar has around 7-8g of protein, some 30-40g of carbohydrates (watch out for added sugars), 40-45g of fats and 10-12g of fiber. That is around 480-500 kcal for SINGLE 100g bar.

So, enjoy your dark chocolate from time to time, but beware of those calories ....

Dark chocolate can be eaten alone, in small quantities of course, or you can enjoy it by adding it in powdered form to various meals, like:

healthy pancakes m - Oatmeal Pancakes - use dark chocolate to improve taste of both pancake batter and pancake filling. 10-15g of dark chocolate powder can make great difference in taste, giving it little bit of recognizable bitterness.
bed time smoothie m - Bedtime Protein Shake - again, single tablespoon of powdered dark chocolate can make protein shake delicacy into something even better ...

Options for improving shakes, smoothies, frappes and other meals using dark chocolate (using dark chocolate powder, chips etc.) is endless. Just be aware about calories - 15g of dark chocolate can have up to 75kcal.

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