Anyone who knows me well, also knows that I am what I call a chocolate snob. My home used to be the location of an annual chocolate tasting, a playful way to educate the palates of family and friends. Because I am a nutritionist, the only requirement for the chocolate entries was that they be bittersweet to ensure they had the nutritional benefits associated with this delightful treat. Oh…and, the chocolate could not be in the form of a confection with fillings, or barks, or dilutions of any kind…just pure chocolate of at least 62% cocoa solids.
Those of us who like to have at least some bittersweet chocolate each day can console ourselves that there is documented data to suggest that those who regularly consume intense chocolate may lower their risks of heart disease, stroke, and hypertension [high blood pressure]. A recent study claimed that frequent chocolate consumption led to improved brain functioning, reducing the risk of dementia as subjects aged. Happily, a 2015 study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggested that indulging in dark chocolate twice a week, reduced the risk of developing Type II diabetes.
An ounce of 70% [or higher] cocoa solids chocolate contains significant amounts of iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, and some fiber. It also contains steric acid, a saturated fat that appears to have a neutral effect on blood lipid [cholesterol & triglyceride] levels. Then, there is that special pleasure effect of the chemical theobromine, which elevates mood, while it soothes, and energizes when combined with chocolate’s natural, moderate caffeine content. Dog lovers, please note, it is the theobromine that can be toxic to certain breeds. Never feed chocolate to pets.
So, the bottom line is that the mindful eating approach to consuming chocolate is the way to include it in a well-balanced, plant-based diet. As with so many things, it is all about moderation and portion control. And, as a chocolate snob, I must assert that white chocolate is not chocolate at all. It is simply sweetened and flavored cocoa butter [fat], with all the goodness and benefits of bittersweet chocolate removed. My advice…Go for the real thing, with no milk products or dairy butter in the list of ingredients. Start with Switzerland’s Lindt 70% Excellence Bar, and you cannot go wrong.
[Dateline: Latham, Albany County, NY.]