Most of us can feel happy just ‘thinking’ about eating chocolate, right? The reason that we are conditioned to feel happy (like Pavlov’s dogs!) is because when we do eat chocolate:
– it stimulates endorphin production, which gives a feeling of pleasure
– it contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant
– it contains theobromine, caffeine and other substances which are stimulants
Not that any of us need to be encouraged to eat more chocolate but the truth is that dark chocolate (not milk or white chocolate) in small amounts has some known health benefits:
– Lowers blood pressure (flavanoids relax blood vessels)
– Contains powerful antioxidants (flavanoids protect against free radicals)
– Contains healthy fats that lower cholesterol (can lower LDL cholesterol by 10%)
When it comes to eating dark chocolate, size matters! It contains fats that are good for you but it certainly is not calories-free. A bar of dark chocolate has an average of 500 calories, 50% are fat calories. The secret is to learn to savor it. There is an art to enjoying dark chocolate and its health benefits. To taste dark chocolate one must take a small piece and savor the subtleties, much like tasting a fine wine.
Besides minding your portion, read the label carefully to make sure that cocoa is the first ingredient on the list rather than sugar. Look for dark chocolate that is at least 70% cacao.
So go ahead and indulge in some dark chocolate, in moderation — a heart healthy treat to also celebrate American Heart month.
What do you think about when you hear the word chocolate? As a registered dietitian and certified dark chocolate lover, I feel it’s my duty to enlighten my family and friends about this sweet topic, so they too can enjoy and benefit from this tasty treat.
This said, it is important to recognize that chocolate is still a high calorie indulgence and moderation/portion control is important. Read the label carefully, make sure that cocoa is the first ingredient on the list rather than sugar and enjoy chocolate that is at least 70% cacao.
To find out what my dark chocolate indulgence is, contact me and also post how you indulge in this sweet treat!