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Light and sweet or dark and bitter, our palates have a penchant for a different variety of chocolates. If you’re planning to say it with chocolates this Valentine’s Day, take a bite of both, milk and dark chocolate and balance the good and bad between the two before gifting it to that special someone.
Before you even start using these excuses to empty an entire rack of chocolates at the grocer, please be informed that there’s a small catch to all these chocolate goodness. Chocolate, no matter what form they are in is still a source of calories. And just because they’re oh-so-tasty, most of us easily over-indulge in them. Chocolates are not created equally. In order to savour the health benefits of chocolate, you need to know which chocolate provides nutrients and which is laid with excessive calories and sugar.

Milk chocolate may taste better compared to dark chocolate but it’s not the healthier choice. All that milky goodness contains less of the original cocoa beans than dark chocolate does. Nevertheless, milk chocolate isn’t all that bad. Since it contains milk solids, it doesn’t lack all nutrition; it’s minimal in comparison with dark chocolate because it’s often diluted with the addition of milk solids, sugar and cream.

The main ingredient in a bar of chocolate would be the cacao bean. The cacao bean (kah-KAY-oh), not cocoa, are the seeds of the fruit of the tropical tree Theobroma cacao. The generic name is derived from the Greek words (theos), meaning “god”, and (broma), meaning “food” and it literally translates to “food of the gods.” This bitter cacao bean was enjoyed as a spice by the Mayans and Aztecs. Only after it made its way to Europe was it sweetened with sugar.

Cocoa is a fabulous source of flavonoids, a special class of antioxidants that are the primary reason chocolate is now considered a treat. The more cocoa, the more flavonoids, and the better for you the chocolate becomes. Plus, dark chocolate varieties often have less added sugar and fat which can also help improve its overall nutritional value.

There have been many studies that found that eating dark chocolate in moderate proportions on a daily basis over a decade may lower your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Since then, the virtues of chocolates just went on making headlines.

Be sure to make your chocolate treat healthy by remembering these tips.

THE DARKER, THE BETTER: Ever noticed why these studies never utter a word about milk chocolates? To begin with, they’re not even considered chocolates. It’s just candy with so much milk and sugar that its percentage of the real stuff, the cacao, may be as low as 10 percent. The lower the cacao, the lower the antioxidant content of your chocolate. So, always go for dark chocolate that’s at least 60 to 70 percent cocoa for those high flavonoid concentrations that actually help your health.

QUALITY MATTERS: Of course, what actually constitutes the best dark chocolate in the world is subjective; but here’s the point – good dark chocolate is self-limiting. You won’t go crazy and pig out on it because it isn’t pleasant to do so. The quality stuff always lasts longer than the cheap stuff. Quality dark chocolate is definitely worth the extra expenditure.

SIZE MATTERS: Like everything else in life, chocolate needs to be taken in moderation. Just because it’s good for you, it doesn’t mean you have an excuse to go overboard; eat too much of any “healthy” treat every day and you’ll just be undoing any possible benefits you may be getting. Stick to a square of dark chocolate a day – most people find that this is enough to satisfy their sweet cravings, and studies have shown that dark chocolate’s benefits are obtained from having just a small amount each day.


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