The health benefits of dark chocolate

I am sure there are others like me who do not eat chocolates. Somehow chocolates have always been related to spoilt teeth or weight gain. When the whole female world went reaching for it at their various hormonal stages, I would snub them, reaching for Bengali sweets to appease my moods.

But of late I find myself liking dark chocolates and craving for its texture and taste. I have these 60 %, 72% and 86% dark chocolates individually wrapped – intense mood elevating therapies- sitting in my freezer.

Yes, as a nutritionist I know how to eat them without guilt, for dark chocolate is not just a comfort food for us all at some level, it has healing properties in as much as red wine or green tea.

So what does it do?

Dark chocolates and cocoa contain the flavonols known as procyanidins and epicatechins which are antioxidants. These are found in the extracts of the cocoa bean. So lesser the bean is processed, darker the chocolate, and the healthier it is for your heart. Emerging research shows dark chocolates with over 60% cocoa mayreduce LDL cholesterol, reduce blood pressure aid in better blood flow to heart and brains reduce risk of blood clots and possibly improve cognitive function and thinking ability in older people

How much is good?

Even though an ounce a day is recommended, and the fact that the saturated fats found in dark chocolates are actually good, it is still a lot of calories and this spells disaster for someone trying to keep their weight at a respectable digit on the scale. Go for the darker ones and eat a little say 15 gram a day. This should give you about 75kcal. If you do not have a weight issue an ounce will give you about 150 calories.

With 86% dark chocolate you feel the full intensity and bitterness of the flavonoids. So if you are a first time dark chocolate eater I suggest you start with the 60%. Even an avid eater like me can swallow just about 10gm of the 86% bitter bits.

Eating tips

Nibble away at it as a chocolate. I say nibble so that your taste buds can savour the bitter pleasure of the cocoa.
Make a fondue and dip bite pieces of bananas, strawberries, pitted dates, pineapples or any that you may fancy eating. This makes a healthy dessert at the end of a meal. Or perhaps popcorn, cake bits or cookies may be dunked – for those who can afford the calories. Or melt a piece in hot milk.

Chocolate, dark or white is not a snack. So savour them after a main meal. There are other low calorie food stuffs like vegetables and fruits that also provide antioxidants so make those the major part of your eating.

Choose dark chocolates that are without filling.

Next time you want to gift someone chocolates, well get them a box of dark chocolates!

Parvathy R Krishnan

The author is a trained Nutrition & Dietetics expert with over 20 years’ of experience in hospitals like Vijaya Hospital in Chennai and the Armed Forces Hospital and New Mowasat Hospitals in Kuwait. She is presently a member of the Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India. Parvathy blogs at http://premadiet.blogspot.in/


More by this author:

How to reduce cholesterol in the Indian diet

Dieting tips for those at work

Image: Graeme Weatherston/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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