Local Chocolate Experts and the Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

What chocolate can do for you and your body

Donna Halperin, one of the owners of Imagine Candy in Scarsdale says, “Children come into the store and ask for dark chocolate from their parents. They have very sophisticated palates.” The dark chocolate almond bark ($30/pound) is a bestseller. And it’s no wonder: dark chocolate contains polyphenols, the same heart-healthy antioxidants that are found in red wine. 

In addition, the magnesium in chocolate helps prevent the body from experiencing negative effects of stress, says Meredith Sobel, RD, of Sobel Wellness. Elizabeth DeRobertis, RD, director of the Nutrition Center at Scarsdale Medical Group, agrees. “There is credible evidence chocolate contains a host of heart-healthy and mood-enhancing phytochemicals with benefits to both body and mind,” she says, though the
effects are more potent for dark chocolate. 

That’s right, chocolate triggers the release of pleasurable endorphins, like dopamine, phene-
thylamine, and anandamide. It also boosts brain levels of serotonin, creating both a calming and mood-boosting effect. Plus, if you’re looking for a little pick-me-up, chocolate contains a form of caffeine called theobromine, which is healthier than the caffeine found in coffee. 

The bottom line is: Chocolate is still a high-calorie, high-saturated-fat food. To get the health benefits, DeRobertis recommends a half-ounce of dark chocolate (at least 70 percent dark) per day which is about 85 calories and 3.5 g of saturated fat. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, adding only half an ounce of dark chocolate to an average American diet is enough to increase total antioxidant capacity about 4 percent and increase oxidation lag time  of LDL—the bad cholesterol.

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