Chocolate… it is a noun that conjures up so many wonderful adjectives in my mind – decadent, rich, delicious, sweet, savory, smooth, creamy, sinful and sexy. Chocolate is the #1 most common gift given on Valentine’s Day, and for very good reason – it is thought to be an aphrodisiac!
But for those of us who are trying to stick to our New Year’s Resolution of losing weight and looking skinny, getting chocolates on Valentine’s Day can be the tipping point – literally on the scale!
“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” – Forrest Gump
But it’s actually more healthy to KNOW what chocolate you are getting. Milk chocolate, the most common, has fat, sugar, and condensed milk added to give it that sweet, creamy taste. It is definitely not healthy to eat. White chocolate, is not considered chocolate at all. The reason being, it does not have cacao solids in it, otherwise it would be brown. White chocolate is the only “chocolate” you can feed to dogs and cats without it being toxic because it lacks theobromine, which is what makes brown chocolate so deadly to these pets. (I still would not feed white chocolate to my pets!) White chocolate is just made of cocoa butter, milk, and sugar. Again, not healthy to eat.
What is left, you ask? Dark chocolate. It contains anywhere from 35% to 100% cacao, which is where the health benefits come from. Chocolate comes from the cacao tree. So when you keep something in its purest form, it can be good for you. Chocolate makers have jumped on the health band wagon and are more than happy to market boldly exactly what percentage cacao their products contain, charging respectively for higher percentages. Keep in mind the higher you go, the more bitter and intense your dark chocolate will taste. I usually go no higher than 80% because my taste buds are not too keen on the strong bitter taste. Also, it has not been proven that the higher the percentage, the greater the health benefits. So if you are trying to save money, somewhere in the middle would be ideal for your wallet. For my budget-conscious audience, which is pretty much everyone nowadays, buying a block of chocolate versus individually wrapped ones are more economical. Chocolate makers charge extra for the extra packaging.
Not only do you have to decide on what percentage dark chocolate you want, but you also get to choose its country of origin. Ecuador, Madagascar, Belgium, France, and Switzerland are just some of the many to choose from. Dark chocolate is thought to reduce blood pressure, prevent heart attacks, and fight against cancer with its amount of antioxidants. Dark chocolate has 8 times more antioxidants than good ol’ strawberries!
Dark chocolate is thought to reduce the amount of bad cholesterol (LDL) by preventing it from oxidizing and sticking to your arteries. So the more cacao in the chocolate, the better! Raw cacao has 75% cacao – that is actually the best, most healthiest form of chocolate you can buy. Companies who produce raw cacao chocolate will make sure to state that front and center on their packaging. It may taste a little bitter but if you have to eat chocolate, you can go to town on these and not feel so guilty. And after a while, your taste buds will get used to the “healthier” chocolate!
Finally, a note to my readers who are athletes – A study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine found that consuming low-fat chocolate milk after exercise was the same or better at muscle recovery than a high-carb beverage with the same amount of calories. Another post-run option to add some variety to your work-out nourishment!
So what to do if your sweet Valentine surprises you with a box of chocolates? Hopefully your sweetheart is nutritiously savvy enough to buy you a box of dark chocolates. And now that you’ve read this post, you have no excuse for not buying dark chocolate tomorrow for V-day! Chocolate makers have all prepared for the recent dark chocolate craze. Godiva, for example, has a box of Valentine dark chocolates for $32. Valrhona, a French brand of chocolate, makes a pretty good 70% cacao dark chocolate that is “bittersweet and elegant.” For 2.46 ounces it will cost you around $7. And Ghirardelli came out with a dark chocolate with sea salt that I just absolutely love! Twelve squares will set you back only $5. One dark chocolate square is around 50 calories.
So if you get an assortment of chocolates for V-day, that’s okay… just remember to eat the dark ones! Happy Valentine’s Day!