Chocolate – How to Enjoy It

Jukka Valkonen, RN, PH

Halloween is over, and there always appears to be some sort of candy and chocolates around. Somehow these tempting extra calories seem to lead and follow us through Thanksgiving, Christmas, the holidays and into the New Year. While most of these sugary treats aren’t the most healthy things we can eat, some chocolates may be beneficial, even good for you

Dark chocolate may have the following health benefits:

  • Protection from Disease-Causing Free Radicals.

  • Potential Cancer Prevention.

  • Improved Heart Health.

  • Good for Overall Cholesterol Profile.

  • Better Cognitive Function.

  • Blood Pressure and Blood Sugar Aid.

  • Antioxidant-Rich Superfood.

The powerful antioxidant flavanol found in dark chocolate is the good stuff. It’s very limited or absent in milk and white chocolate, so in order to get this super benefit, the chocolate needs to be 70% or greater in cocoa, and hasn’t been alkalized, also sometimes called “Dutch” chocolate.

Dark chocolate also has higher levels of caffeine which can give a little mental and physical energy boost. That said, I would not recommend having dark chocolate too close to bed.

Dark chocolate has calories and fat. About 2 ounces, which can be about 2 squares in a bar, is one serving and usually enough to satisfy. The trick is HOW to enjoy it! Dark chocolate can kick in your endorphins. Endorphins are released in response to pain and stress and help to alleviate anxiety and depression. The surging “second wind” and euphoric “runners high” during and after a vigorous run are a result of endorphins. Similar to morphine, it acts as an analgesic and sedative, diminishing our perception of pain. Take a piece and let it melt in your mouth. Slowly and softly chewing it. At least 20 times. This not only releases the salivary enzymes to begin the breakdown of the chocolate, but the chemicals will begin their absorption and hit the brain. Our bodies are designed to absorb chemicals such as certain drugs from underneath the tongue. This is another reason why we consider dark chocolate a medicinal food.

So there you have it! Your prescription for dark chocolate – a yummy and beneficial food as a medicine.