« Weekly walking/running roundup | Main | Fitness Challenge Week 5 Update: Sarah »

February 9, 2011

Dark chocolate: It's sweet for your health

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a guest post on healthy eating. This week, nutritionist Christine Dobmeier (pictured) weighs in on dark chocolate.

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, chocolate candy is everywhere we look, in many shapes and forms (of course hearts!). While many of us think of chocolate as an unhealthy indulgence, research is showing that dark chocolate actually has many benefits. Chocolate’s healthy kick stems from its rich flavonol content. The health bonuses associated with dark chocolate and cocoa include enhanced blood flow, healthy cholesterol levels and in some studies, reduced blood pressure.

What is a flavonol? Though it sounds like some kind of wacky flavor, it is actually a type of flavonoid. A flavonoid is something that helps protect plants by repairing damage from environmental toxins. Flavonoids occur naturally in plant-based foods and offer certain health benefits when people consume them. There are more than 4,000 various flavonoid compounds, and flavonol is the specific one found in chocolate and cocoa.

When we think of antioxidants and flavonoids, foods that often come to mind include green tea, red wine and berries. The good news on cocoa and chocolate? Just two tablespoons of natural cocoa has more antioxidant properties than four cups of green tea, one cup of blueberries or six ounces of red wine. One cup of cranberries has 419 milligrams of flavonols, and only 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate has 517 milligrams. There isn’t an official recommended daily allowance for flavonols, but research indicates there are health benefits with intakes from approximately 150-200 milligrams a day.

Why dark chocolate over milk or white chocolate? Typically dark chocolate is less refined, which allows its flavonol content to be higher. Most commercial chocolate is more processed, which decreases this healthy benefit. The good news is many chocolate manufacturers are looking for ways to keep the flavonol content higher to promote the healthy side of chocolate. When choosing chocolate for your sweetheart, look for a dark chocolate, and still remember that portion size is important. The serving recommendation to get the heart healthy benefit of dark chocolate isn’t yet established, but it’s thought that an ounce of dark chocolate 2-3 times a week is a good goal.

While dark chocolate is more heart-healthy, try to limit chocolate in forms such as cake, where it may have much additional saturated and trans fats, as well as items with a lot of extra caramel or marshmallow fillings. Instead, look for basic, rich dark chocolate or ways to mix dark chocolate with a variety of other anti-oxidant rich foods. Consider dipping cranberries or blueberries in dark chocolate for a healthy but delicious treat. Cocoa dusted almonds also make an excellent snack.

Enjoy a healthy dose of dark chocolate for Valentine’s Day, as well as to celebrate American Heart Month in February.

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:31 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Nutrition


Not all chocolate is equal see the whole story here
Xocai is the first to market company with healthy chocolate and is expanding fast over Europe.

First see the whole story if you like it contact me.

Peter Langelaar.w


And here are four steps to maximize the health benefits of dark chocolate:

The Darker the Chocolate, the Better. Dark chocolate has a higher percentage of cocoa solids, containing the health benefits, than milk or white chocolate. Most dark chocolate products have the cocoa percentage labeled.

Eat Moderate Portions. Chocolate is a high-calorie food. Over indulge, and the health benefits of dark chocolate can be quickly outweighed by the problems of weight gain.

Avoid the High Calorie Extras. The health benefits of dark chocolate come from the antioxidants in the cocoa solids. All of the other ingredients, like sugar, and any extras, like nougat, caramel, marshmallow, etc., just add calories.

Do Not Consume With Milk. For some reason, not yet scientifically understood, the health benefits of dark chocolate are basically negated if the dark chocolate is consumed with milk.

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About Exercists
Andrea Siegel, a reporter at The Baltimore Sun, covers mostly crime and courts in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, as well as legal issues. She wishes she was more physically fit, and, as she's more fond of chocolate than exercise, fitness is a challenge. Her partner on a one-mile-plus daily walk is the family dog, a mixed breed named Moxie, and she exercises at the gym where the D.C. snipers once worked out.
Jerry Jackson has been a photo editor at The Baltimore Sun for 14 years and an avid cyclist for more than 30 years. Inspired by the movie "Breaking Away," he started racing as a teenager in Mississippi when leather "brain baskets" were still the norm. He regularly commutes to work by bike and still enters several mountain bike races a year for fun.
View Twitter feed
Patrick Maynard, who will be writing about running and walking, has been a producer for since 2008. In 2009, he tweeted on-course for the Sun from the Baltimore Marathon, finishing in just under 4 hours and almost managing to run the whole time. He sometimes walks to the Sun offices on Calvert Street.
View Twitter feed
Leeann Adams, a multimedia editor at The Baltimore Sun, also dabbles in content for the mobile website and iPhone app and covers the Ravens via video. She did a triathlon to celebrate her 40th birthday and continues to swim, bike and run -- none of them quickly, though. Her biggest fitness challenge is to balance working, working out, spending time with her husband and being a mom to a 6-year-old boy.
View Twitter feed
Anica Butler, the Sun's crime editor, is a former high school runner and recovering vegetarian who spent more of her early-adult years on a bar stool than working out. She is currently training (though poorly) for a half marathon and is trying to live a generally healthier lifestyle. She also hates the gym.
View Twitter feed

Most Recent Comments
Baltimore Sun coverage
Reader photos

Share your race photos
Upload your photos from races. Post times, if you like.
Stay connected