Saturday, March 2, 2013

Tidbits: How Much Dark Chocolate is the Dose for Health?

Well, chances are that by now, you have worked your way through your Valentine box of chocolates.  No matter if you got the chocolate as a gift or you picked them up yourself the day after Valentine’s for a bargain.

You were probably thinking, “chocolate is good for me”, when you got them, especially if you listen to the news often enough.

So here are my questions for you, to get you to think a minute:

  • Did you eat the whole box within a week?
  • Did you share with anyone?
  • Did you make a vow to eat one piece per day until it was gone (because you always watch your weight)?
  • Did you ask for or buy dark chocolate? Or are you a milk chocolate fan? 

  • And last but not least, have you ever thought about how much chocolate you “need” in order to be healthy?

One thing amazes me in news stories about nutrition and food: The reporters give you the sound bite, “dark chocolate is good for (fill in the blank with either your heart, brain, blood pressure, cholesterol)”, but they neglect to mention “the rest of the story”, including the amount of chocolate that the study participants ate to get the good results.

According to the February 2013 issue of Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter, yes, dark chocolate is good for you. But don’t take that as a license to eat a ton of it. Moderation may be a boring word, but that is the word of the day when it comes to chocolate.  Tufts reported that in one study, published in JAMA in 2007, it took just 6.3 grams (0.2 ounces) of dark chocolate per day to see a beneficial effect on blood pressure in people with mildly elevated blood pressure. 

So what is 6.3 grams of chocolate?  Half of a small square of foil-wrapped chocolate, or 7 Ghirardelli Double "dark" chocolate chips, or 13 Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate chips.
A piddling amount of chocolate is all you need each day. Pictured is the "dose" of Ghirardelli Dark chips with a "normal" chocolate chip in the middle to compare size.

As for the quiz questions above? If you were truly eating chocolate “for your health”, that box of chocolate should have lasted at least until now (2 weeks later). Unless, of course, you share. 

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