by ALEXA McDONALD, Guest Writer
Editor’s Note: Alexa McDonald, Manhattan College’s dietician, will be occasionally contributing articles centered round healthy eating in college.
Now that winter is in full swing, it’s time to relax in the warmth of your dorm and enjoy a little end of the day sweetness. Whether it’s in hot chocolate, a chocolate bar or baked into a cake, you’ll be happy to know that one of your favorite sweets can be good for you: chocolate. But, not just any type of chocolate, only dark chocolate has enough benefits to outweigh less redeeming characteristics, like excess calories and sugar. Here are our top 5 reasons Dark Chocolate is our February superfood:
1.) Essential Nutrients! One ounce of 60% cacao dark chocolate provides 2.3 grams of fiber, 15% of your daily magnesium intake, and 3.5 grams of healthy fats for 160 calories.
2.) Brain Power! Packed with antioxidants and flavonoids that stimulate blood flow to the brain, dark chocolate can actually help improve memory and concentration. Its fatty acids and caffeine content also stimulate brain function.
3.) Heart Health! Cacao is rich in flavonoids, which can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and reduce risk factors for heart disease and stroke. To get the most flavonoids, look for dark chocolate without alkali or that has not been “dutched.
4.) Antioxidants! These disease-fighting components come from the cacao beans and are most prevalent in dark chocolate. Dark chocolate typically contains about 50-60% cocoa by weight and as the percentage increases, so do the benefits! As a general rule: the more bitter the taste, the healthier the piece!
5.) It’s versatile! Dark chocolate can be eaten by itself or used to add an extra punch of nutrition to your snack! Melt on low in the microwave and drizzle over trail mix, lightly salted popcorn or mixed nuts, or mixed berries. For added sweetness, stir an ounce into oatmeal or top low-fat yogurt with a few dark chocolate chips.
Stick with a 1-ounce portion (the size of a package of dental floss) a few times a week. Look for versions with no sugary add-ins (like caramel, marshmallows, etc) and “unsweetened chocolate” as the first ingredient to reap benefits without unnecessary calories and sugar. Enjoy!