An incongruous post on a weight loss/ wellness blog—well, maybe not. Most of us love it, and for that reason, we hate it. But what if this “love/hate” relationship, in moderation of course, isn’t really all that bad. Yes, chocolate is fattening. Even “the healthy” dark chocolate contains a lot of calories because of the fat and sugar content (and calories are calories, even if all aren’t created equal). The sugar content in chocolate is worse than the fat content regarding negative effects on health. Cocoa butter, the main source of fat (besides milk) in chocolate, is composed of both saturated and unsaturated fats, yet about 75 percent is in the form of oleic and stearic acids. Diets rich in these acids have been shown to lower cholesterol levels.
Well . . . here’s the good news: Chocolate is healthy—in moderation.
Cocoa and dark chocolate have been recognized and associated with a number of health benefits: Because of its flavonoids, chocolate is a great antioxidant. Antioxidants help rid the body of free radicals, those molecules that tend to run amok in your body resulting in aging and disease. Antioxidants bond to those pesky free radicals and remove them.
Look at some of the best antioxidants: Blueberries, green tea, pomegranates, red wine. Guess what? Dark chocolate runs rings around them. According to the USDA, antioxidant foods, measured in Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity Units (ORACs), for every 100 grams, dark chocolate has 13,120 ORACs, compared to only 2,400 in blueberries, and nearly eight times the number of antioxidants found in strawberries.
Antioxidant-rich diets have been linked to a lowered risk of heart attacks, stroke, cardiovascular disease, cancer, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, arthritis, asthma, Alzheimer's and more. In fact, dark chocolate has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) by up to 10 percent. Dark chocolate has far more antioxidants than milk or white chocolate (and a 65 percent or higher cocoa content). These other two chocolates cannot make any health claims.
So it stands to reason that if dark chocolate is chock full of antioxidants and “good” fats, and can reduce cholesterol, it's actually good for you. Well . . .
Sugar is still sugar and we know the pounds it packs on. But keep in mind that a strong dark chocolate bar might have ten to fifteen grams of sugar, and that is less than the 22 grams in a glass of orange juice, or the 29 grams in a cup of yogurt. High-quality dark chocolate is at least 70 percent cocoa solids, and not alkali processed. A good "dose" is 5 to 15 grams daily, which should be less than 100 calories. This is not a large piece of chocolate. And, you’ll need to balance those 100 calories by eating less of something else.
If you “love” chocolate, you’re in luck. To satisfy your sweet tooth and keep your total calories on track, cut out other sweets or snacks and replace them with a small piece of dark chocolate to keep your total calories the same. All things in moderation. With a little discipline, it is possible to “have our chocolate—and eat it too.”