Dark is the new Black

Dreams do come true.

Trader Joe’s is to me as Disney Land is to many…the happiest place on Earth. Ok, yes, that’s slightly dramatic, but there are probably a hundred reasons why I love this store and new finds like these are why.

Somewhere between grabbing vegetables and my quest to find Aloe Vera juice, I stumbled upon this gem:  70% Dark Chocolate with Caramel AND black sea salt. For $1.99. Mind = blown.  Now, many foodies out there probably know that interesting chocolate combos have been around in specialty shops & Whole Foods for at least a few years, so this idea clearly wasn’t born yesterday.  However, this nearly identical bar is more than 3 times the cost of the TJs version and since they are both 3 oz, I can all but guarantee the nutrition facts are identical.

Another plus is the high (70%) content of cacao.  I find that as I get older, I prefer darker chocolate over the sugary, sweet milk chocolate that is typically present in most candy bars.  Dark chocolate bars typically have less sugar and may have more of a bitter taste. I love this because it actually helps me control my desire to otherwise eat the entire thing in one sitting.  I’m usually satisfied with 2-4 squares of dark chocolate (depending on size, brand, etc) where as I could probably eat 1/2 a box of Sees milk chocolates in the blink of an eye.

Dark chocolate typically has more flavonoids (flavanols) compared to milk chocolate because it has a higher % of cacao (more chocolate, less other stuff). Flavonoids are fun, little antioxidant friends that help prevent cellular damage (such as cancer) from free radicals, highly reactive atoms that can be caused by environmental factors (i.e.-pollution, smoking, certain pesticides).  A 2008 study has even shown that short-term consumption of dark chocolate may improve blood pressure and insulin resistance; however, data is still limited on longer-term consumption. (Sorry, but science & research take awhile.) Before you start eating chocolate with every meal, keep in mind that antioxidants are also found in our BFFs (best food friends) fruits and vegetables.  These nutrient-rich, low calorie foods are always a good bet.  Chocolate, dark or otherwise, tends to be high in calories and fat, so it is definitely a special treat that can be worked into a healthy nutrition plan.

Escape to Hawaii and dark chocolate heaven for $1.99.

A few tips for chocolate consumption:

  • Sharing is caring:  Split the bar in 1/2 with a friend for a ~ 200 calorie dessert. Find 2 more friends and you’ve got a 100 calorie treat.
  • Go dark:  Enough said.
  • Experience it: Cheesy as it sounds, but if you’ve ever been wine tasting, part of the drinking process is about truly tasting and savoring the wines, not just pounding it like a beer bong. Same goes with chocolate (or any food, really). Take slow bites, don’t rush through it and truly let your brain process what you’re eating. You have 5 senses & 5 tastes/taste buds — put them to work.
  • Moderation: It’s not a treat if you have it every day. Dessert is NOT a required daily meal. Have your chocolate less often and you’re more likely to appreciate it that much more.
  • As an accompaniment: chocolate pairs well with many fruits (blueberries, strawberries, pineapples, orange) and the combination makes for a fantastic dessert. Try 2 squares of dark chocolate with ~ 1 cup of fresh fruit.

More Dark Chocolate:

**Food Allergies–as always, please read the ingredients and look for the listed allergens.**

References:

American Dietetic Association Evidence Analysis Library, 2011.  http://www.adaevidencelibrary.com/

Grassi, et. al.  Blood Pressure Is Reduced and Insulin Sensitivity Increased in Glucose-Intolerant, Hypertensive Subjects after 15 Days of Consuming High-Polyphenol Dark Chocolate.  Journal of  Nutrition. September 1, 2008 vol. 138 no. 9 1671-1676

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