Oh, chocolate. Need I say more? Chocolate is so divine, so rich, so delightfully melty. I actually knew someone who was allergic to chocolate. I stood quietly, to offer a moment of silence in respect for such a terrible situation.
Chocolate. It really could and should be one of the major food groups.
Chocolate. If only it wasn’t so unhealthy for us.
Or is it?
The United States is facing an obesity epidemic, and scientists generally agree that one of the primary causes is excessive calorie consumption. Chocolate and other candies and sweets generally tend to be packed with calories and low on healthy nutritional components. It takes 3500 calories to make a pound of fat, so if you eat a 400 calorie candy bar a week, you could potentially gain about 6 pounds over the course of a year.
So what is a health-minded chocoholic to do?
Here are some tips for healthy chocolate consumption.
According to the University of Michigan, dark chocolate is a good source of anti-oxidants, chemicals that may help reduce cholesterol and decrease your risk of blood clots or strokes. Look for dark chocolate with more than 60% cocoa, and remember to practice portion control. Savor one little square a day.
Pregnant women tend to clean up their diets while expecting, but what does that mean for chocolate? Good news! A 2011 study found that pregnant women who eat 1-3 servings of chocolate a week cut their risk of developing preeclampsia, a serious pregnancy blood pressure disorder, in half. Choose dark chocolate and enjoy in moderation – remember chocolate is high in calories and caffeine.
Mix with Fruit Chocolate
Chocolate and strawberries or chocolate and cherries are winning combinations. Melt a little dark chocolate in a double boiler and drizzle it over fruit to get a chocolate kick with your vitamins and fiber. You can also slip mini dark chocolate chips into fresh raspberries.
Sweeten Whole Grains
Add dark chocolate chips to your favorite zucchini bread recipe. Chocolate and vegetables are good for you together! Or are you trying to go gluten free? Blend dry oats, cottage cheese, and an egg to create a pancake batter. Just before you flip it, dot it with some mini dark chocolate chips.
Enjoy your chocolate the retro way. How retro? Prehistoric indigenous peoples of Central America enjoyed drinking cocoa, or cacao, at least as far back as 600 to 400 BC. The Simon Fraser University Museum of Archeology offers a recipe that may be reminiscent of Aztec style chocolate. Mash an ounce of unsweetened dark baking chocolate with a bit of boiling water into a paste, then blend it with 2/3 cup of boiling water until frothy. Add a bit of vanilla or chili pepper to taste.
Moderate Your Moderation
These ideas will help you to have some dark chocolate in a healthier way on a regular basis. But remember that a lifestyle that incorporates healthy food and exercise will also allow for the occasional splurge, which means that sometimes we can choose the chocolate lava cake!