Nutrition Corner: Treat your valentine right with dark chocolate

February 10th, 2016 1:19 pm

Happy Valentine’s Day! Cards, flowers and chocolate are traditional valentine gifts. Choosing to give dark chocolate is a great way to have your valentine leave their guilt behind on Valentine’s Day.

Why? First, while chocolate contains some saturated fats, studies have shown that not all types of saturated fats raise blood cholesterol levels. For example, stearic acid is a saturated fat that makes up one-third of the fat in chocolate. Stearic acid does not raise blood cholesterol levels like other traditional saturated fats. In addition, oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil, makes up one-third of the fat in chocolate. Eating foods with oleic acid as part of a healthful eating plan has been shown to be beneficial for heart health.

The secret to enjoying dark chocolate is the amount of chocolate that you eat. Look at the food label to check portion size and number of calories. Determine your portion size. To balance your portion size of chocolate, reduce the amount of butter or margarine in that day to offset the calories, or better yet, go for a walk to burn off some of those extra calories.

Chocolate lovers also reduce their risk of heart disease when enjoyed in moderation. Chocolate is made from cocoa beans which are rich in a specific type of antioxidant called flavanols. Flavanols are found in several plant foods such as apples, berries, beans, nuts, purple grapes, red wine and teas. The less processed the more of the original cocoa bean in the chocolate. Read the label and look for the highest amount of cocoa on the food label.

Penn State Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton explained that flavanols, phytochemicals in cocoa seem to relax and dilate blood vessels. “When platelets flow freely in the blood, the risk of blood clots—which can cause heart attacks and strokes—may be greatly reduced. Chocolate has the same effect as aspirin therapy, but without the negative gastro-intestinal side effects,” she said.

Like all foods, chocolate can fit into a healthful eating pattern. Chocolate can be enjoyed in moderation to add flavor and pleasure to eating. Check your portion size of chocolate and balance out the calories with other lower calorie snack foods such as fruits and vegetables.

Here is a great cookie which is made from whole grain oats and cocoa. The sugar can be reduced if you wish. Enjoy!

No Bake Chocolate Cookies

Yield: 16 cookies (serving size: 1 cookie)

2 cups white sugar

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup cocoa

4 Tablespoons margarine

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups uncooked quick oats

Combine sugar, water, cocoa, and margarine in a saucepan.

Bring to a boil and boil one minute. Add peanut butter, vanilla, and oats.

Cool slightly. Drop by teaspoonful onto waxed paper.

Nutrition per serving: Calories 232 (32 percent from fat); Total fat 8g (saturated fat 3 g); Protein 5 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Fiber 3 g; Carbohydrate 38 g.

Nutrition Corner Mary R. Ehret Corner Mary R. Ehret

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan, and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at