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February 10, 2013

Attention chocoholics – a little chocolate is good for you


• White chocolate is the blend of cocoa butter, sugar and flavoring. It doesn’t contribute to known health benefits and is not labeled as “chocolate” by the Food and Drug Administration since it contains no cocoa solids.

• Unsweetened baking chocolate is 100 percent cocoa without added sugar. It is too bitter for eating.

• Dark chocolate contains various amounts of cocoa solids plus cocoa butter, sugar and other flavors. Bittersweet chocolate typically contains less sugar than semi-sweet chocolate. The amount of sugar varies among brands.

• Milk chocolate is a combination of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sugar and flavoring plus milk solids.

Like many treats, chocolate should be enjoyed in moderations. Some suggest limiting chocolate to an ounce or two a day. Use these guidelines to make  heart healthy choices.

• Dark chocolate has the most health benefits. The darker the chocolate, shown by a higher percent of cocoa solids, the lower the sugar content and the higher the antioxidant content. Look for flavonoid content on the label by percent cocoa.

• Dutch processed cocoa has a milk chocolate flavor. It has been neutralized to lower the acidity found in chocolate, but this also destroys the healthy antioxidants. Naturally unprocessed cocoa is a healthier choice.

• Some suggest that milk added to chocolate prevents the body from absorbing beneficial flavonoids.

If you indulge in eating chocolate, swap extra calories from soda and other calorie laden snacks. Though research shows that dark chocolate’s benefits, it can’t make up for unhealthy eating habits. Choose wisely and you could help your heart; then savor every bite.

Kathy Smith is a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent for Parker County. Contact her at (817) 598-6168 or

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