February’s Favorite Food: Chocolate

Valentine’s Day is here and so are those tempting chocolates. They arrive from a friend, a child, your co-worker, or spouse and they call for you, no make that shout for you!  Should you feel guilty eating some chocolate?  Absolutely not, but the operative word in the previous statement is some.

Most of us have heard there are health benefits to chocolate.  Indeed, chocolate is highly ranked on the food chain as being very beneficial as an anti-oxidant rich food. Without getting too technical, anti-oxidants are wonderful for health because they help fight something called free radicals which cause damage to our bodies.  This damage to our bodies translates as disease and aging!

The health enhancing compounds in chocolate and cocoa are from a group of compounds called flavonoids.  Flavonoids are also found in foods such as fruits, vegetables, and even spices.

Of course, not all chocolate is created equally when it comes to health benefits. On Valentine’s Day, enjoy a piece or two of your favorite chocolate candy. But to enjoy the health benefits of chocolate all year, consider the following:

  • Move your focus to chocolate products that are not heavily processed. The processing of chocolate degrades the flavonoid content, rendering it less therapeutic in fighting diseases.
  •  Avoid cocoa products which note Dutch processing, which allows for the destruction of flavonoids by treating it with an alkali to tame the natural pungent taste of cocoa.
  • Add chocolate products to your diet that are lower in sugar and fat.  Most of us do not have a dietary need for more fat and sugar in our diets!  The fats in chocolate are not considered uniformally “bad”, but the calories from fat in chocolate remain a nutritional concern for many people.
  • We always hear that dark chocolate is better for us than milk chocolate, but it depends on how the dark chocolate was processed.  Reading the dark chocolate product label prior to purchase may be helpful in choosing a minimally processed chocolate, and therefore, healthier chocolate.

For the other 364 days of the year, a few 1 oz. servings of unprocessed chocolate per week is a great eating strategy if you need a chocolate fix.  Happy Valentine’s Day!