Question: I know you recommend dark chocolate as a healthy snack. Does that mean it is okay to give my mom chocolates for Mother’s Day?
I do recommend good-quality dark chocolate as a healthy snack, as long as you don't go overboard. An ounce or two a few times a week is good for you.
Many of chocolate's health benefits come from flavonoids, a group of powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from aging caused by free radicals, which can cause damage that leads to heart disease. Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants (nearly 8 times the number found in strawberries). Flavonoids also help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide, and balance certain hormones in the body.
Dark chocolate has far more antioxidants than milk or white chocolate. To maximize the health benefits, choose dark chocolate with 65 percent or higher cocoa content.
Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Tastes good! Chocolate is a complex food with over 300 compounds and chemicals in each bite. To really enjoy and appreciate chocolate, take the time to taste it. Professional chocolate tasters have developed a system for tasting chocolate that include assessing the appearance, smell, feel and taste of each piece.
Stimulates endorphin production, which gives a feeling of pleasure
Contains serotonin, which is an important neurotransmitter involved in mood and brain health.
Contains theobromine, caffeine and other substances with are stimulants.
Very high in antioxidants.
Doesn't Chocolate Have a lot of Fat?
Here is some more good news -- some of the fats in chocolate do not impact your cholesterol. The fats in chocolate are 1/3 oleic acid, 1/3 stearic acid and 1/3 palmitic acid:
• Oleic Acid is a healthy monounsaturated fat that is also found in olive oil.
• Stearic Acid is a saturated fat but one which research is shows has a neutral effect on cholesterol.
• Palmitic Acid is also a saturated fat, one which raises cholesterol and heart disease risk.
That means only 1/3 of the fat in dark chocolate negatively effects cholesterol levels.
If your mother enjoys chocolate, go ahead and give some for Mother's Day – not candies or truffles, but bars of the good stuff - dark chocolate imported from Belgium, France, Italy or Venezuela is so richly delicious that a single piece as a snack or after-dinner treat will be more than satisfying. I like chocolate with added ginger, cherries, spices, and nuts, as well as plain - look for varieties of dark chocolate that contain at least 70 percent cocoa.
Happy Mother's Day
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods