Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Low-Down on Chocolate

One of my favorite ingredients, chocolate has a way of being there for us whether we’ve had a stressful day, an insane headache, or a run of the mill sweet tooth craving.  So how can something that’s lifted our spirits time and time again have such a bad reputation?  Well, the problem isn’t in the cocoa, which happens to be loaded with lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help lower blood pressure and protect from heart disease. The culprits are the cream, sugar, caramel, and nougat found in many chocolate bars.

Ounce for ounce, dark and milk chocolate have about 150 calories and 9 grams of fat each but dark chocolate has more nutrients, specifically antioxidants, so it’s healthier overall.  Keep in mind that dark chocolate is still high in calories and should be consumed in moderation.  If you prefer sweet, look for dark chocolate with a 60-70% cacao content.  Anything higher is going to have a bitter aftertaste but a lower sugar content. Typically, higher-end chocolates will advertise their cacao percentage and are usually not alkalized.  For cacao content on a variety of chocolates click here. Personally, I'm a fan of Ghirardelli's line of dark chocolates with high cacao percentages.

It's important to avoid chocolate that has been Dutch-processed or alkalized.  This process makes the chocolate darker and gives it a milder flavor but it also destroys most of the flavonoids, stripping the dark chocolate of its healthy components.  Hershey’s “Special Dark” chocolate is alkalized and no better for you than Hershey’s milk chocolate so stop fooling yourself.  It will say in the ingredients if it has been alkalized.  Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder is natural and not Dutch-processed so I approve of it.
Natural vs Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder

Chocolate makes us feel better because it contains serotonin, a natural anti-depressant.  It also stimulates endorphin production which leaves us feeling warm and tingly.  So the next time you’re feeling blue, snack on a couple squares of high quality dark chocolate, a natural pick-me-up.

Check out my guest post on Kitchen Tested for a decadent recipe for spiced dark hot cocoa.


  1. Avital,

    A very nice post. I myself am a chocolate lover and find the health benefits an added bonus. I try to stick to at least 70% and limit myself (or at least try) to a few square a day.

    Thanks for sharing,


  2. I am always thrilled to read how chocolate has health benefits. My favorite is Dagoba's Xocolatl (spiced chocolate). I eat 1-2 squares any day I've got the cravings. :)

  3. awesome, great job-looks delicious!


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