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The Truth About Chocolate and Your Health

Plus 4 Easy and Delish Recipes

If you’re a chocolate lover, you already know chocolate is a huge hit when it comes to meeting your sweet tooth needs. Now keep reading for some great news! Cocoa, an ingredient in chocolate, has been shown in research to have cancer-fighting effects. 

Cocoa has antioxidants called flavanols that have been shown to reduce damage to cells, fight against inflammation, lower blood pressure, and potentially reduce your risk of cancer and prevent other chronic illness or diseases.

However, chocolate is chocolate – meaning it is still full of sugar and fat, so it is important to look for products with dark chocolate or chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa. High-quality dark chocolate typically has less sugar and saturated fat than other types of chocolate. Generally, the darker and stronger the chocolate, the more flavanols it has, and the more health benefits it will provide. 

While there are cancer-fighting properties in dark chocolate, specifically the ingredient cocoa, this doesn’t mean it is beneficial to eat large amounts of chocolate. As with all foods, moderation is key!

Tips and Recipes for Chocolate Lovers

Choose these products to maximize the health benefits of your chocolate choices: dark chocolate blocks containing 70 percent cocoa; raw cacao or cocoa powder; or cacao nibs, which are crushed, raw cacao beans.

• Add cacao nibs, dark chocolate squares, and cocoa powder to your trail mix.
• Use nibs in granola, smoothies, oatmeal, or as an alternative to chocolate chips in cookies.
• Add cocoa powder to water for homemade hot chocolate.
• Melt dark chocolate and take your strawberries for a dip.
• Melt dark chocolate and add a swirl to plain yogurt.
• Enjoy dark chocolate blocks with any type of fruit.

Banana Bites

• Melt dark chocolate. 

• Slice a banana into 1/2-inch slices.. 

• Spread your favorite nut butter (peanut, sunflower, almond butter) between two banana slices. 

• Cover with melted dark chocolate. 

• Top with crushed nuts, powdered cocoa, or sprinkles, and freeze.

Banana Chocolate Ice Cream

• Add two to three frozen bananas and two to three tablespoons of cocoa powder to a food processor or blender.

• Mix until combined. 

• Enjoy while cold.

Chocolate Bark

• In a pot on the stove or in the microwave, melt 12 to 16 ounces of dark chocolate chips or a dark chocolate bar. 

• Pour melted chocolate over parchment paper to form a rectangle shape. 

• Sprinkle dried fruit, nuts, etc., onto the melted chocolate, and freeze until firm. Use a knife to cut the bark into pieces and serve.

Hot Cocoa

• Microwave or boil 1 to 2 cups of milk of choice (cow’s milk, almond, cashew) or water until hot. 

• Stir in about 2 tablespoons cocoa powder until smooth or desired consistency. 

• Add a dash of salt, sugar, or vanilla extract for additional flavor.

Danielle Rednick, RD, is a clinical dietitian at VCU Health. She offers guidance and works with patients at VCU Health to create care plans around their nutrition and dietary needs.
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