By: Jodie Shield, RD As if anybody needs a reason to eat chocolate! But if you do, here’s the bittersweet truth about everybody’s favorite sweet stuff – – just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Chocolate is . . . heart-healthy. It takes approximately 400 cocoa beans to make 1 pound of chocolate. Cocoa beans are a rich source of flavonoids – – powerful antioxidants that seem to play a role in lowering blood pressure and preventing heart attacks. According to research conducted at John Hopkins University School of Medicine, eating just a few squares of dark chocolate daily reduced the risk of death from heart attack by almost 50% in some people. And several studies have found that when adults with mild hypertension eat about 3 oz of dark chocolate a day, they are able to significantly lower their blood pressure. They key is dark chocolate: it has twice as many flavonoids as other types of chocolate; white chocolate has none (see my previous blog Coming to Terms with Chocolate). Tip: Three ounces of chocolate provides about 450 calories, so make sure you balance your food choices accordingly and/or increase your exercise.
Chocolate is . . . caffeine light. If you need a caffeine boost, you’re better off grabbing a cup of coffee. An 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee has between 100 and 150 milligrams of caffeine, but an 8-ounce cup of hot cocoa usually has about 15. Here’s the caffeine content on other types of chocolate (per 1-ounce): dark chocolate <5 mg, milk chocolate 5 mg, and semi-sweet chocolate between 5 and 10 mg. Tip: If you eat too much chocolate, the caffeine quantities (and calories) will add up – – so share your box of chocolates with your Valentine.
Chocolate is . . . a source of happiness. If you want to get in a good mood, then chocolate is your food. Chocolate contains tryptophan, which prompts the brain to make serotonin, a chemical linked to feelings of happiness, joy and well-being. In addition, sweet chocolate stimulates the release of endorphins, natural brain chemicals which generate feelings of pleasure. But to feel the benefical effects, you’d have to eat a LOT of chocolate. Tip: Nibble on a small amount of chocolate. Also, be sure to hit the gym, go for a walk, ride a bike – – exercise stimulates endorphins too!
So, what type of chocolate are you going to get your Valentine this year?