This Sunday, February 14th, is Valentine’s Day — a day for people to express their love for one another, which is done most often on this “Hallmark holiday” by sending cards, flowers, and chocolates. The thought of chocolates is enticing, but it can also wreak havoc on your waistline. A typical chocolate truffle contains over 70 calories and 6 grams of fat (4 of which are saturated), and who stops at just one when you have a whole box in front of you? Those calories and fat add up fast!
But, there is a bright side to the chocolate debacle. Chocolate can be nutritious while also being delicious — that is if you choose wisely. Surely you’ve heard that chocolate can be good for you, and what makes it healthy are the flavonoids found in cocoa.
Flavonoids are a type of polyphenol antioxidant found in plant-based foods, such as onions, grapes, red wine, tea, and cocoa. They are the cause of the pungent taste of raw cocoa, and they are removed during processing to make sweeter chocolate. Therefore, the more bitter the chocolate, the higher the percent cocoa (also called cacao) and the more flavonoids it has, which is why dark chocolate is a healthier option than milk chocolate.
Chocolate is also high in fat, 2/3 of which is saturated fat from stearic and palmitic acid, and 1/3 of which is monunsaturated fat (like that found in olive oil) from oleic acid. Here again the higher the percentage of cocoa, the better off you are because it means less butter and milk have been added to the chocolate, which means less saturated fat.
The Bottom Line: This Valentine’s Day stick to dark chocolate with 60-70% cocoa, and watch out for those cream, caramel, and fruit filled chocolates.