Monday, February 13, 2012

Time for a Round-Up: Chocolate by Number…

There is nothing sweeter than a chocolate valentine. As a chocoholic myself, I love a holiday that worships the cocoa bean. But not all chocolates are created equal. To give your sweetie a chocolately and healthy valentine, know your chocolate by number…

Why have you done a good thing?

The higher the chocolate percentage on your bar of chocolate, the more cocoa and health benefits the chocolate contains. Dark chocolate is packed full of antioxidants called flavanols. Flavanols have been shown to reduce risk of cancer due to decreased free radical damage in your cells. Flavanoids also have heart healthy benefits including reduced LDL oxidation and production of nitric oxide, helping to reduce blood pressure and subsequently the risk of heart disease. Dark chocolate has also been shown to improve mood by increasing serotonin levels and increasing endorphin levels, stimulating feelings of pleasure.

And what about white chocolate? Technically white chocolate isn’t chocolate because it does not contain any cocoa solids which are the primary ingredients in chocolate. But it is still delicious and a great special treat as it is high in sugar and saturated fat!

For the best health benefits of chocolate eating, here are some tips:

1) The darker the better. Choose the darkest chocolate that you enjoy eating. In general, here are the FDA guidelines to understand chocolate labeling:

  • Unsweetened, brute or bitter chocolate = 85-99% cocoa
  • Bittersweet or semisweet chocolate = 35-84% cocoa
  • Milk chocolate = 15-34% cocoa, more sugar and milk

2) Watch the portions. Although all these health benefits must be music to your chocolate loving ears, remember it is still a high calorie food so limit portions to 100 calorie servings or about 1-2 oz. The darker the chocolate, the richer the taste, making just a small piece more satisfying.

3) Avoid too many fillings. Choose the most natural chocolate possible. Things like nougat, caramel type fillings take the place from good quality flavanoids. Choose plain chocolate or chocolate bars with more natural additives like dried fruit and nuts.

4) Savor it. To truly enjoy chocolate, really taste it. Eat it slowly and enjoy the deep, rich flavor!

For you foodies out there, after a round-up taste test of the best dark chocolates out there, here is a list of the most delicious chocolate brands with the highest cocoa percentages (most fun round-up yet):

Ghiradelli Intense Dark 72% Cocoa

Endangered Species Supreme Dark (70% cocoa)

Dove Silky Smooth 71% Cacao Dark Chocolate

Green and Black’s Organic 70% dark

Lindt Swiss Bittersweet Chocolate – 60% cocoa

Lindt Excellence – 70% cocoa

Michael Cluizel Grand Noir 85% cocoa

Godiva 72% Dark Chocolate

Valrona 65% cocoa

Perugina Signature Dark Chocolate - 60% cocoa

Scharffen Berger Bittersweet 70% cocoa

Trader Joes 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate

Trader Joes Swiss Dark Chocolate – 71% cocoa

365 Organic Swiss Dark Chocolate – 52% cocoa

Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!


Amy Santo, MS RD CDN

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