Health Benefits Of Chocolate - Six Questions with Teresa Anderson Our Resident Dietician CDE

Chocolate. Who doesn’t love chocolate? We want it in our breakfast, our lunch, our snacks, our vending machines and after dinner. It’s a staple of almost any holiday, birthday celebration, or just because you wanted chocolate. We are taught from an early age that chocolate isn’t good for us, but have you heard that chocolate candy may not be completely bad for our health after all. We decided to get to the bottom of the predicament by going to Teresa Anderson, our resident Dietician CDE, for the truth about chocolate.

Is chocolate good for you?

I don’t know I would say it is good for you, but chocolate does in fact have health benefits. Chocolate also comes with ingredients that do not have some health benefits.

The health benefits come from the cacao that is in chocolate. Cacao comes from the coco bean. It has anti-oxidants, also known as flavanols. Flavanols are linked to lowering inflammation and lowering blood pressure, and improving blood flow to the heart and brain. Flavanols also help keep blood from clotting.

The part that doesn’t contain health benefits is the sugar and fat content. The sugar and fat have no nutritional value, just calories, and you know what those buggers can be responsible for.

So the higher the cacao content in your chocolate, usually the less sugar and fat. Try and look for darker chocolate when you want [or need] to satisfy a sweet tooth. 

So does dark chocolate have more health benefits than milk chocolate?

Yes, dark chocolate needs to be 60 to 70 percent cacao to be considered dark. Types of chocolate vary by the content of Cocoa  butter, cocoa solids, milk solids, milk fat, chocolate liquor, and sugars. Bitter or semi-sweet chocolate may have  lower percent cacao [50-60% or so] content but higher sugar. Remember, all the nutritional value we get comes from the cacao. The higher the percentage of cacao, the more flavanols it contains. 

Also look at the calories they contain. Dark chocolate contains roughly 170 calories per ounce. Milk chocolate contains roughly 210 calories per ounce. 

What about candy bars?

The operative word in candy bar is candy. You should really think about what else you are eating that day and whether or not you have time to exercise and burn off the calories. 

Does chocolate-flavored ice cream have any benefit for us? 

It’s good for making you happy! Just remember, at the end of the day the more calories you take in, the more you need to work off with exercise. 

What about chocolate syrup?

No. (Cold stare).

What is the best way to stay health conscious when consuming chocolate?

The best way is finding the chocolate with the highest cacao flavor that still satisfies your chocolate craving and stick to that. You get the most health benefits and the least calories. Keep in mind that cravings are more cultural than natural; don’t think that because you are craving chocolate, it means your body needs chocolate.

If you want to increase your profits of the benefits of your chocolate eating, you could mix it with nuts or fruit instead of cookie dough.

I also like to add cocoa powder to my coffee to give it that chocolate flavor and benefits without the added sugar or milk fats.

Bottom line: if you want to eat chocolate, eat it, but just be conscious of the calories you are putting on to your body. You know how much exercise it takes to use up even 170 calories?! 


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