Dark chocolate and your body, truths and myths

by Ali on April 17, 2008

This post is by Lorna Cowie, an artist and self-described “extreme foodaholic”. She has also witnessed the devastation wreaked by me and a chocolate fountain… I’m trying not to take any of the below advice too personally ;-)

Many of us have been listening to the various rumours about the miracle of being able to eat dark chocolate because it is ‘healthy’ for us. I though I would pop into The Office Diet and share a few facts about this chocolate revelation before we all waltz to the shop to gorge ourselves upon this delicious treat. So, go grab yourself a carrot stick or a nice glass of tomato juice and settle down to read the results of my fact-finding about Dark Chocolate…

So, what’s actually in dark chocolate?

First of all, let’s get down to the calories. A 100g of a famous branded milk chocolate contains 525 Kcal, 57g of Carbohydrates of which 56.7g are sugar. Now the same brand name in dark chocolate (60% cocoa) contains 540 Kcal per 100g, 58.4g of carbohydrates of which 36g are sugar, so how can dark chocolate be ‘good’ for us?

One answer is in the fact that dark chocolate contains antioxidants, specifically polyphenolic antioxidants. Now, I am not one to baffle you with science, so if you wish to know the deep and meaningful facts about these mysterious antioxidants then I suggest you read this article on antioxidants or do a search of your own. In easy terms, antioxidants have been found by scientific study to have many health benefits, such as preventing diseases in the heart and brain.

Also, another thing to take into account would be the different varieties and makes of dark chocolate you can find out there in the world. Another famous brand (this time a fair trade, organic and 70% cocoa) has 551 Kcal per 100g and 36g of it is carbohydrates and 29.4g of that is sugar. So keep this in mind when you are shopping for your dark treat, especially if they also have added pieces of sugared nuts and fruits that can up to and over another 10g of sugar!

Clearly from the figures above, dark chocolate is still not something you should presume is healthy and chow down on freely. It should be eaten in moderation – see below for a few ways to get your chocolate kick without having to feel guilty. Use it as a treat, not a necessity and only through that can you feel you have made a healthy choice for your body.

Chocolate dipped fruits

Everyone knows you can dip the usual strawberry into chocolate and make a nice romantic plate to feed your beloved, but have you through about using other fruits? A thick slice of banana can easily take a nice coating of dark chocolate, and its slow release of sugar and energy will help you through a long night of… romantically involving yourself with your partner.

Grapes are another attraction. Coating them (with their skins on) will create a crunchy delicious shell to a juicy fruit within that will pop in your mouth. Try it with red grapes (seedless of course) for a deeper flavour sensation.

Dried fruits are perfect for a snack. Take into account their sugar and calorie content and add it to the chocolate content before you go ahead though. Just because they are dried fruits does not make them a sin free snack. For patient people, simply dip the dried fruits into melted dark chocolate by a cocktail stick and let them set on a cold plate. For impatient people, chop one or two chunks of your dark chocolate into smaller squares (about 6 to a chunk) and mix them in with your dried fruit snack, the occasional bite of chocolate will make you feel you are eating more than you are of it and is a nice delicious surprise.

So give fruit dipping a go, just remember to avoid fruits with a high level of natural acids, like fresh pineapple, as they cause the chocolate to remain liquid and they will be messy to eat, unless you want that of course!

(Photo above by serjei.y)

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