When a chocolate craving hits, sometimes you can’t help but indulge. The good news is, you may no longer need to feel as guilty – if you choose dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa may contain nutritious fiber, iron, copper, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus. The darker the chocolate, the more cocoa it contains and the more nutritious it may be because of a component of cocoa called flavonoids — and in particular a subtype called flavanols, which may help protect your heart.
Flavanol-rich cocoa may contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents, which may have positive effects on:
- reducing stress levels
- lowering blood pressure
- improving brain function
- improving vascular function
Other flavonoid-rich foods include apples, tea, onions, cranberries and even, red wine (in moderation).
While all of these benefits are great, don’t overdo it. Many commercial chocolate bars have added fat, sugar and calories. So eating too much, could reverse the benefits and contribute to weight gain, which is a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
Experts recommend looking for less-processed chocolate that contains at least 70% cacao and limiting yourself to a maximum of 1 to 2 ounces a day. Plain dark chocolate may provide the greatest health benefits, so avoid fillings unless they are nuts or dried/fresh fruit.
If you’re looking to reap the benefits without the sugar, unsweetened chocolate is 100% cocoa. Though, it’s very bitter and best as part of recipes for baked goods or in hot cocoa.
Not a fan of dark chocolate on its own? Consider adding it to a recipe with other nutritious ingredients:
Peanut butter walnut energy bites
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 1½ cups steel cut or rolled oats
- ½ cup ground flax seed
- ¼ cup dark chocolate chips
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- In a large bowl, combine peanut butter and honey. Fold in oats, flax seed, chocolate chips and walnuts.
- Roll mixture into 2-inch bites.
- *Optional: roll balls in unsweetened coconut.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to one week or the freezer up to one month.