War of the Chocolates
Chocolate is the aphrodisiac of choice on Valentine's Day. But not all varieties of this confection are created equal. Here’s a rundown of the most-lovable options for you and your waistline.
This antioxidant-filled variety provides the most health benefits. Dark chocolate contains important nutrients like vitamins A, B and E, along with calcium, iron and potassium. The antioxidant theobromine has been shown to help lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation. The reason dark chocolate is healthiest is that it contains higher cocoa concentrations — that's where all the good stuff is found. For the most health benefits, choose dark chocolate that is made from at least 60 percent cocoa. And with 150 calories and 9 grams of fat, it's important to stick with 1-ounce portions.
Milk chocolate contains around the same amount of calories and fat as its dark counterpart. It contains less cocoa than dark, and therefore has less of the beneficial nutrients and antioxidants. Milk chocolate is made from milk solids, sugar and cream, which give it a smoother and creamier texture.
Not truly chocolate, this variety has a milder, subtler flavor. It’s made from cocoa butter, sugar and flavoring. One ounce of white chocolate has about 160 calories and 10 grams of fat – so moderation is important.
In order to bring out the chocolatey flavor of baked goods without adding many calories, use a touch of unsweetened cocoa powder. Unsweetened cocoa powder also contains the antioxidants founds in dark chocolate. One tablespoon contains 12 calories and 1 gram of fat and is sugar-free. All you need is a small amount (a teaspoon or two), as it goes a long way.
These crunchy pieces add a subtle chocolate flavor to a variety of dishes. Cocoa nibs are made from roasted cocoa beans that have been separated from their husks and broken into teeny pieces. Use them in place of roasted nuts or chocolate chips in recipes, without the sugar. One ounce of cocoa nibs provides 130 calories and 12 grams of fat and is sugar-free.
Last Chocolate Standing: No matter which chocolate you crave, moderation is the real winner in this war. The calories and fat in any form of chocolate add up quickly, so sticking to small amounts is the only way to truly love chocolate.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.