Choc-a-block- Which chocolate is the healthiest?
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you read the word, CHOCOLATE? Creamy, silken delicious bursts of happiness, right? When you have chocolate, it feels like time has stopped and you feel calmer, more joyous and less stressed. Add to this all the reports coming in about chocolate being good for health and you’re on a guilt free cloud 9!
Chocolates, more specifically, the cocoa content that makes them, has been, for long, hailed as being very good for health. It is said to be a mood elevator, is heart healthy as it raises HDL, improves blood circulation, is supposed to be great for cognition function and memory preservation, is good for skin and is full of antioxidants that protect your body from untimely degeneration. Chocolate is also said to play a role in boosting performance of athletes.
Today, let’s dive into the world of chocolates and find out how good they are for our health, how much should you have, what type of chocolate should you choose to maintain your fitness levels and much more! We all know that the healthiest chocolate to have is the dark chocolate. But this doesn't mean you pick anything that says dark chocolate from the store. Your dark chocolate has to be organic and has to have over 70% cocoa content to be deemed good for your health.
What does a 100 grams of unsweetened dark chocolate (70%-90%) bar entail
A good quality dark chocolate bar contains about 11 grams of fiber, nearly 67% of your RDI for iron, 58% of RDI for magnesium, 89% of copper, 98% of your RDI for manganese. To top it all off, it is also rich in potassium, selenium and zinc. Oh my! If it’s so healthy, I can have all 100 grams of it every day right? Wrong. Unfortunately, the commercially processed chocolate we get at the stores is also loaded with other materials that go into making your chocolate store ready and delicious as not everyone is fond of the bitter taste of the cocoa solids.
How to choose my chocolate if I want to maintain my fitness levels -
- Read the Label
The order in which the nutritional info on the label of your chocolate is given, is a dead giveaway for its quality. If the first item on the list is sugar, or milk solids or sugar solids, glucose, or has artificial flavoring, artificial coloring, then that is not the chocolate you should be picking up. Look for words like ‘ Cocoa powder, cocoa butter, cocoa solids’. These should be leading the nutritional info. This means that their concentration in the final product is more and so the chocolate is more likely to be healthier than the rest of the variants available.
- Choose Dark Chocolate over Milk, White and Pink Chocolate
It goes without saying that dark chocolate is the healthiest of them all and contains the maximum number of antioxidants and nutrients. Choose the unsweetened or the less sweetened variety. Cocoa beans are very bitter and so to make them palatable for common consumption, confectioners add sugars and butters. Milk and white chocolate are made from milk solids, sugar, preservatives, coloring, additives, flavoring and hydrogenated fats. These variants do not contain any antioxidants, or any other nutrients beneficial for the body.
- Choose dark chocolate bars over syrups and cakes, icing, ice creams and other baked goods
Another very important thing to note when you‘re a chocoholic with a zeal to stay fit is that you need to choose un sweetened dark chocolate bars over everything else even if they are labelled ‘healthy or dark chocolate’. This is because all baked items will have their share of sugars, fats and carbs that are going to increase the calorie intake and not do you any good.
Ok, so how much chocolate should I have every day and when should I have it ideally?
You can ideally have 2 pieces of unsweetened chocolate in a day but we wouldn't recommend that you make it a daily habit. In case you are in the habit of consuming some chocolate every day, it is recommended you have it as a pre workout snack or have it between meals. Since it is calorie dense and releases a lot of energy, a pre workout chocolate snack may help boost your high intensity workouts. Just make sure you're not having chocolate first thing in the morning too, or at night as a snack. Never have chocolate after a heavy meal as it spikes your blood sugar levels. If you’re going for hot chocolate, try and have one made from unsweetened non dutch processed cocoa powder in a cup of unsweetened milk/ almond mylk or coconut mylk. Any chocolate drink made from chocolate powder or dutch processed chocolate will not contain any flavonoids or the nutrients we talk about above.
Have more questions? Write to me in the comments below and listen to my podcast Science Wala Gyan with HT Health Shots to know more!