The Benefits of Chocolate

By Molly Hembree, RD, LD, Kroger Customer Connect

Drizzled on your favorite dessert, used as a dip for fruit or just a simple piece to satisfy a craving, chocolate is a favorite of many. But what about the touted health benefits of chocolate? Is it too good to be true that something so indulgent can also be valuable in our diets?

Chocolate, or rather cocoa liquor found in cocoa nibs, contains powerful compounds. Polyphenols, a type of flavonoid or antioxidant, helps support heart health and may even play a role in preventing degenerative disease and cancer. Cocoa also has been studied for its mood-elevating and apparent anti-depressant effects; we certainly believe there’s a connection! More good news is that although cocoa liquor (containing cocoa butter) is high in saturated fat, the main form it is found in is stearic acid. Stearic acid, when compared to other saturated fats, has a neutral effect on arterial health for our heart and does not significantly elevate our “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. Chocolate also contains a low to moderate amount of caffeine: ranging from about 5 milligrams caffeine per ounce of milk chocolate, to about 40 milligrams in an ounce of baking cocoa. Despite the fact most of us should be avoiding caffeine, if you do not consume caffeine otherwise in your diet, it has been shown that a small amount of it can increase endurance in athletes and potentially support insulin sensitivity.

So, when choosing what chocolate to purchase, go for the higher percent cocoa products — preferably above 75%. This tells us that there is more actual cocoa than added cream or sugar. Milk chocolate contains 10% cocoa or more, while semi-sweet chocolate contains 35% or more cocoa. Cocoa does have a bitter taste, so you may want to start around 60% cocoa and work your way up! A great way to enjoy more cocoa in your next hot chocolate can be to combine 1 teaspoon baking cocoa with 1 cup low-fat dairy or nondairy milk and add a packet of Simple Truth Organic™ Stevia Extract Blend.