Nielsen predicts that lovebirds bought more than 58 million pounds of chocolate during Valentine’s week. For the chocoholic on your list there is no better present than the one they crave. But now that Valentine's Day is in the rear view mirror, many of us are staring down a house full of temptations. So RedPlum's here to remind you that chocolate can be a healthy indulgence if you swap milk chocolate treats for darker varieties. We’ve teamed up with Julie Pech, author of "The Chocolate Therapist: A User's Guide to the Extraordinary Health Benefits of Chocolate" (Trafford Publishing, $11.95) to learn what sets dark chocolate apart from the rest. Read on, then feel free to nosh on a few of the darker hearts.
What’s so great about dark chocolate?
"Dark chocolate is one of the highest antioxidant foods on the planet", says Julie. A diet filled with antioxidant-rich foods helps to assist the immune system, heart, brain, kidney, liver, skin and other major organs. Those with 65 percent or more cacao are best.
What’s so bad about milk and white chocolate?
The less cocoa you have (as in milk and white), the more sugar and fat you have...too much to overcome the small amounts of chocolate in milk and white. Plus, "all the benefits of chocolate are in the cocoa powder including vitamins, minerals, protein, and vitamins and, of course, antioxidants", says Julie. "Milk and white chocolate contain lower levels of cocoa powder, so the health benefits are reduced".
Which ingredients should we look for when choosing dark chocolate?
Less is more when it comes to ingredients in fine dark chocolate. Julie suggests looking for cocoa, cocoa mass, cocoa beans or cocoa liquor as the FIRST ingredient. Some dark chocolates list sugar as the first ingredient, which means there’s not much cocoa powder in them. She also recommends looking for cocoa butter, sugar (ideally evaporated cane juice or pure cane juice), lecithin and vanilla.
Which ingredients should we steer clear of?
Julie recommends avoiding cholesterol-raising fats like butter, butter fat, milk fat, vegetable oil and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. "And stay away from any ingredients you can't pronounce, including those that are just initials (usually preservatives)", she says.
Do you have any favorite brands?
I've discovered a few of my own favorites, like Green & Black's (organic, Fair Trade from the UK), Theo (organic from Seattle), Valor (from Spain), Dolfin & Nirvana (from Belgium).
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