Wellness Club — Enjoy Dark Chocolate for a Heart Healthy Valentine’s Day
Abingdon, VA. -
Monday, Feb 1, 2021.
Written by: Elizabeth Hall, MS, RDN, LDN, Food City Registered Dietitian
Valentine’s Day is notorious for sweets which includes…chocolate! Enjoying treats in moderation is an important part of a sustainable healthy eating plan. If you are looking to add a nutrient-boost to your Valentine’s Day goodies this year, look no further than dark chocolate!
What is dark chocolate? Chocolate, in general, begins from a cocoa pod that has seeds on the inside which are fermented, dried, and roasted into cocoa beans. Further refining produces cocoa solids and cocoa butter, which are used to make the solid chocolate we know and love. Dark chocolate is different from milk chocolate because it contains more cocoa solids. Dark chocolate contains 50-90% cocoa solids whereas milk chocolate contains 10-50%.
What are the health benefits of dark chocolate? The cocoa bean is rich in phytochemicals called flavanols that may benefit heart health. Since dark chocolate has more cocoa solids, it contains 2-3 times more flavanols than milk chocolate. Flavanols support production of nitric oxide in the inner cell lining of your blood vessels which helps your vessels relax, improving blood flow, and lowering blood pressure. Some studies have shown that flavanols may increase insulin sensitivity, which, in the long run, could help prevent diabetes. Try to choose at least 70% dark chocolate in order to get the most flavanols and benefits.
What is a serving of dark chocolate? Dark chocolate is still relatively energy-dense like other forms of chocolate, so portion size is important. One ounce of dark chocolate is one serving which provides about 150 to 170 calories.
How should you store, and most importantly, eat dark chocolate? Store dark chocolate in a cool dry place in a sealed bag or container. Avoid refrigerating which can cause chocolate to “bloom” resulting in a white coating on the outside due to excess moisture. If you store it properly, dark chocolate can last up to two years! Dark chocolate is delicious on its own, or use a vegetable peeler to create chocolate curls and place on top of fresh fruit. You could also melt dark chocolate and add it as a tasty flavoring to oatmeal or yogurt.