To be honest, there haven’t been many days in my adult years that did not include three squares of dark chocolate after dinner. I understand that some feel dark chocolate is too bitter, however, provided that the chocolate is at least 60% cocoa solids, there is a type or brand of dark chocolate available for most taste buds.
There are many health benefits related to dark chocolate intake and more research taking place that suggests cocoa can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. In fact, cocoa has been used historically as a medical remedy to prevent heart disease.
Cocoa solids are rich in powerful phytochemicals called flavanoids. These antioxidants protect the body’s cells from free radical damage and disease. There is also research suggesting that flavanoids inhibit the oxidation of LDL or “bad” cholesterol” which is associated with heart disease. This class of phytochemicals may also decrease blood pressure, another risk factor for heart disease.
Flavanoids have other properties as well that protect us from disease such as anti-inflammatory, anti-adhesive and anti-thombotic properties, all of which are associated with a decreased risk for heart disease.
Aside from antioxidants, cocoa butter has stearic acid, a long chained, saturated fat which may also have positive effects on cardiovascular disease risk factors.
Dark chocolate is incredibly satisfying and it can decrease after meal sugar cravings. If you are new to dark chocolate, try 2-3 squares of 60% dark chocolate to start. Bite each piece and chew slowly, letting the chocolate melt in your mouth before swallowing. Work your way up to higher cocoa percentages and try different styles of dark chocolate until you find the perfect one for you. A fantastic evening treat during the colder seasons is hot cocoa made from raw or unprocessed cocoa powder, milk and a bit of sugar.
As dark chocolate is high in calories, try to stick with just 2-3 squares in the afternoon, after a meal, or whenever you feel the need to have a small, sweet treat. Luckily, as dark chocolate is rich in flavour, that’s all you should need.
Eat Well, Halifax
Nicole Marchand, RD