Are you a milk chocolate fan? What about your kids? Sometimes that’s all kids want because that’s all they’ve ever really experienced. Or do they claim they don’t like the bitterness of dark chocolate? It’s time you all come to the dark side. Why? Because all dark chocolate is NOT the same. Time to rock the boat and add moving to dark chocolate as a part of your health-related New Year’s resolutions. Yes…it’s good for you!
As Americans, we have not had the privileged exposure to fine chocolate like those in Europe. We all grew up with Hershey and Nestle and it was pretty much all milk chocolate…which doesn’t have much real chocolate in it! The facts are, chocolate is NOT sweet and it can be expensive. So chocolate makers add loads of sugar, anywhere from 80-90% of the product, and artificial flavorings to make it taste like real chocolate to save money. A Hershey’s® Bar is about 11% cacao (and it is probably because the U.S. FDA REQUIRES a minimum of 10% cacao solids). And Snickers® is less than 2%! So is it the chocolate or the sugar everyone likes? Eating food high in sugar boosts your odds of tooth decay, heart disease, and diabetes, not to mention weight gain.
By moving over to dark chocolate in 2015, you and your kids can slash sugar intake in a big way! And dark chocolate has proven health benefits. It’s a superfood!But of course, keep it in moderation. Here are some interesting facts:
- All dark chocolate is NOT the same. That’s like saying every Cabernet Sauvignon from every vineyard is the same. Each chocolate maker, like a wine maker, is an artist in their own way. They have their own processes, proprietary recipes, use different amounts of quality or low quality ingredients grown in various places in the world under distinct climate conditions and in different soils, blend in flavorings or not etc. With chocolate, even how it is processed (ie: conching) can impact the mouthfeel (smoothness, creaminess), flavor and even perceived bitterness. High quality chocolate makers tend to conche longer…which makes their dark chocolates NOT bitter. In chocolate, you get what you pay for. Try the finer chocolate maker’s products. Even chocolates within a maker will be different. Don’t generalize. Experience everything. You will find the ones you will love! (ask me!)
- Look for chocolate labels that say 64%, 72% and other percentages over 60%. The % cacao that you see on chocolate labels basically indicates the % of real chocolate vs sugar. So the higher the %, the darker the chocolate and the less sugar, the more the chocolate flavor…and the healthier it is for you! If it doesn’t have a percentage…stay away
- Dark chocolate is natural and nutritious. It contains a decent amount of soluble fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium
- Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids which are antioxidants that have been shown to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and boost overall heart health. There are also studies in cancer, diabetes and many other disease states. Choose chocolate that is at least 70 percent cacao or cocoa to optimize the antioxidant power and health benefits
- Dark chocolate can have more than five times the flavonoids of an apple
- Dark chocolate may reduce the risk of a heart attack. Research found that blood platelets clotted more slowly in people who had eaten chocolate than in those who had not. This is significant because when platelets clump, a clot can form, and when the clot blocks a blood vessel, it can lead to a heart attack
- Some studies suggest that dark chocolate can offset Type 2 diabetes
- Researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that dark chocolate is far more filling, offering more of a feeling of satiety than its lighter-colored sibling. That is, dark chocolate lessens cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods
- Dark chocolate can boost your mood! It contains several psychoactive chemicals that act as stimulants and mood elevators… and may induce same feelings that love does. Key for stress reduction. Dark chocolate also influences serotonin which may provide an energizing effect. This increased energy may also improve longevity and stamina…which in turn has a perceived effect of increasing libido. It’s also seen to have an effect in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Women who ate chocolate daily during their pregnancy reported that they were better able to handle stress than mothers-to-be who abstained. Also, a Finnish study found their babies were happier and smiled more
- Dark chocolate can improve your skins ability for UVA/UVB sun protection (read one of my earlier blogs)
- Not only will dark chocolate help your body ward off the effects of stress, but may boost your brain power. Researchers from Oxford University and Norway studied chocolate’s long-term effects on the brain by analyzing the diets of more than 2,000 people over age 70. They found that those who consumed flavanol-rich chocolate, wine, or tea scored significantly higher on cognitive tests than those who didn’t
There is so much more to learn about the health benefits of dark chocolate, so stay tuned! Make the commitment today to go to the dark side of chocolate for you and your family.
And don’t forget, giving your sweetie chocolate for Valentine’s Day may show you care for their health as well as their heart!
Lisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced. Now served at Memoire restaurant in Ridgewood!