Tom: The following is a guest post by Renee Knight: a freelance writer, editor and storyteller who loves covering health topics. You can find her at ReneeKnight.com.
I eat chocolate just about every day – and I think you should, too.
I let myself enjoy this sweet treat as a mid-morning snack and I don’t feel guilty about it or worry what it’s going to do to my waistline. In fact, I feel pretty good about my choice.
The key is, I’m not eating a milk chocolate candy bar filled with caramel (though that’s certainly okay once in a while). Instead, I’m choosing to get my chocolate fix from dark chocolate – a sweet treat that actually provides health benefits.
That’s the beauty of dark chocolate – not only does it satisfy my sweet tooth, it’s also good for me. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants that help protect the cardiovascular system and even might help promote weight loss. Even better, eating a small block of dark chocolate keeps me from splurging on a bowl of ice cream or a calorie-filled candy bar later in the day.
In the last few years, several studies have been released purporting the benefits of dark chocolate. And the possible health benefits for those who incorporate dark chocolate into their diet are myriad, including lower blood pressure, weight loss and decreased stroke risk.
The Department of Food Science and Technology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University recently completed a study that shows a specific antioxidant in cocoa prevented mice from gaining weight while also lowering their blood sugar. The exciting results of this 12-week study appeared in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Other recent studies show that dark chocolate may help prevent type two diabetes and lower the risk of developing heart disease.
Sounds great, right? Just remember, while choosing dark chocolate over milk chocolate provides several health benefits, that doesn’t mean you should eat an entire 3.5 ounce block in one sitting. Just like anything else, dark chocolate is best in moderation. I usually buy the bigger bars and eat one block at a time. I try different kinds just to mix it up, but I never opt for versions with nuts, caramel or any other popular candy filling. If you choose those varieties, you lose the health benefits and gain empty calories.
And don’t just put any ol’ bar of dark chocolate into your cart. Look at the percentage of cocoa in the chocolate – the higher the better – and check out the ingredient list. Any options with a long ingredient list likely aren’t your best bet.
I have to admit, while I’ve grown to love dark chocolate, I wasn’t a fan at first. Milk chocolate, with all its sugar and fillers, is my first love. If you’re used to milk or even white chocolate, dark chocolate can seem pretty bitter at first – especially when you’re eating versions with a high percentage of cocoa (which offer the most benefits).
To get past that, I pair my antioxidant rich chocolate with my favorite tea. It helps cut down the bitterness, which is honestly something I don’t even notice anymore. If you’re not a tea drinker, a glass of milk or even water may help as you adjust.
Next time a chocolate craving strikes, opt for high-cocoa dark chocolate rather than your go-to sugar-filled sweet treat. Keep a bar in your house like I do, or maybe buy a bag of mini dark chocolate bars to make it easier to stick to one serving at a time. Not only will this keep you from overindulging on not-so-good-for-you sweets later, you’ll enjoy the many health benefits that dark chocolate provides.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy dark chocolate? Tell us in the comments below!