Who doesn’t love chocolate? Most of us do, and the temptation to buy a chocolate bar, or even a bite-sized piece of chocolate, can be very difficult to resist, especially when standing in line at a grocery store. However, you don’t have to feel guilty indulging in just a little bit of chocolate every once in a while, as there actually are some health benefits to this delicious treat.
- Carob powder is a great substitute for chocolate in beverages, baking, and candy, thanks to its naturally sweet taste. Carob powder is also low in calories (13 calories per tablespoon), contains very little fat, and has no caffeine. If you choose to use carob powder in place of cocoa powder when baking, you will not need to use as much sugar. Carob powder can also be mixed with fat-free milk or added to smoothies to make great-tasting chocolate beverages.
- Chocolate does not contain as much caffeine as many people think. For example, a 1 ounce milk chocolate bar, or an 8 ounce glass of chocolate milk, only contains about five milligrams of caffeine. However, an 8 ounce cup of regular coffee contains around 85 milligrams of caffeine. Espresso can also be high in caffeine, depending on the café where you are purchasing it.
- Chocolate does have some heart health benefits. For instance, chocolate contains antioxidants, which are responsible for preventing cholesterol from sticking to your arteries, and in turn can cause a heart attack or stroke. The darker the chocolate is, the more antioxidants it contains. In addition, some types of chocolate are now enriched with plant sterols, as these contain strong cholesterol-lowering properties, and many manufacturers have started adding plant sterols to food.
- Dip fruit in melted chocolate to get even more health benefits. This way, you are getting some health benefits from the chocolate, but also from the fruit. Fruit that tastes great when dipped in chocolate include strawberries, apples, kiwi, pears, and peaches.
And another advantage of consuming dark chocolate over white chocolate is that the darker the chocolate, generally the higher the percentage of cocoa it contains, meaning it has less sugar.
So don’t feel guilty by having a small amount of chocolate – remember, everything in moderation!
Chocolate Dipped Fruit
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- 1 tablespoon shortening (do not use butter, margarine, spread, or oil)
- Assorted fresh fruit, washed and chilled
- Place chocolate chips and shortening in a small microwave-safe bowl.
- Microwave at medium (50%) for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes, or just until the chips are melted and the mixture is smooth when stirred. Allow to cool slightly.
- Dip fruit about 2/3 of the way into the chocolate mixture. Shake gently to remove excess chocolate.
- Place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Refrigerate, uncovered, until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes.