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UK HealthCare dietitian shares advice for enjoying chocolate responsibly on World Chocolate Day and beyond

World Chocolate Day
Blog

/ by UK HealthCare

July 7 is World Chocolate Day, an annual celebration of all things chocolate. Chocolate is eaten around the world in some form or fashion, and while we may have different preferences in how to enjoy chocolate, you may have heard that dark chocolate is even good for you.

We recently caught up with Shorus Minella, RD, LD, a dietitian at the UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute, and author of the Cardio Cuisine series, to set the record straight on the health benefits of chocolate.

Is chocolate really healthy?

Any kind of chocolate would be considered a candy – even dark chocolate – so you have to treat it like a sometimes food, only eating it in moderation. Milk chocolate typically has added ingredients that result in more fat, sugar and calories. 

What are the health benefits?

Cacao is the raw, unprocessed form of chocolate and has essential minerals and nutrients like magnesium, calcium, B vitamins and antioxidants. Research shows that there are some health benefits to eating dark chocolate because it has fewer added ingredients than milk chocolate.

Cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, is known to have antioxidants called flavanols that could reduce the damage to the cells in your heart, therefore helping reduce the risk of heart disease.   

Is all chocolate healthy?

Chocolate, even if it is dark chocolate, is not considered a health food, so treat it like candy or a dessert.  

What should I look for when I’m trying to find or buy healthy chocolate? 

If you are trying to consume less sugar and fat in your diet overall, you should look for a chocolate with 10gm or less of added sugar and very few added ingredients.

Cocoa powder typically has all the benefits of dark chocolate but without all of the sugar, fat and calories. Adding dark cocoa powder to a smoothie or oatmeal will you give you the chocolate flavor you love without adding the sugar, fat and calories.  

What are some ways I can incorporate chocolate into my diet?

If you have a low sugar dark chocolate with few added ingredients you could buy the small individually wrapped chocolates. That way you can eat 1 or 2 pieces as an afternoon pick-me-up. If you buy a large chocolate bar you may feel tempted to eat the whole bar. 

Should kids eat dark chocolate?

Sure, kids can have dark chocolate, but most kids don't like the way it tastes because of the bitterness due to the lack of sugar and fat.

If your kids enjoy dark chocolate, find one with a low amount of added sugar, but still consider it a treat and offer it in moderation.  

How much is a serving of chocolate, or how much can I eat before I overindulge?

There is no specific amount of chocolate to eat to get those anti-inflammatory effects. Start by adhering to the serving size on the back on the food label. 

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