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Health by Chocolate

How enjoying a little chocolate might actually help your health.
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Not All Chocolate Is Created Equal

While the amount of the healthy antioxidant flavonoids varies from one type of chocolate to another, there's one guideline you can take to the bank: The more nonfat cocoa solids in a chocolate product, the more antioxidants it likely contains.

So which type of chocolate has the most flavonoids? The highest levels are in natural cocoa powder (not Dutch cocoa, though, because it is alkalized cocoa). The type second highest in flavonoids is unsweetened baking chocolate. Dark chocolate and semisweet chocolate chips rank third, with milk chocolate and chocolate syrup at the bottom of the list.

Keep in mind, though, that flavanol levels in types of chocolate can vary based on:

  • The cocoa beans selected.
  • The processing of the beans and chocolate.
  • Storage and handling conditions.

Perhaps in the near future, labels on chocolate products will list amounts of flavanols.

Which Type of Chocolate Has the Most Calories and Fat?

By far the lowest-calorie, lowest-fat form of chocolate is cocoa (the unsweetened type). A serving of 3 tablespoons has about:

  • 60 calories
  • 1.5 grams fat
  • 0 grams saturated fat
  • 3 grams fiber

The equivalent in unsweetened baking chocolate is 1 square (1 ounce), which contributes:

  • 140 calories
  • 14 grams fat
  • 9 grams saturated fat
  • 4 grams fiber

By comparison, a typical 2-ounce serving of semisweet or milk chocolate (with sweetener and other ingredients added) contains:

  • 270 calories
  • 17 grams of fat
  • 10 grams of saturated fat

Semisweet chocolate adds around 3 grams of fiber per 2 ounces, while milk chocolate typically contributes zero. The mostly insoluble fiber in cocoa comes from the seed coat on the unprocessed cocoa bean.

All of this brings us to Health by Chocolate Rule of Thumb #3: For a better flavonoid-to-calorie ratio, choose cocoa powder whenever possible for baking and making hot chocolate.

Don't Forget the Calories

One thing most chocolate bars have in common is calories. An ounce of sweetened chocolate will cost you about 150 calories -- that's about six to seven chocolate kisses. Here's my take on it as a chocolate lover: Those six kisses are worth every calorie.

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