Chocolate: Did you know? Facts and recipes

by ADA

Most people enjoy chocolate and agree that it tastes wonderful, yet they also have misconceptions about its effect on health. Here are some facts about chocolate that you may not know.

Low Carb Foods
Low Carb Chocolate Cake
Sugar Free Chocolate Chips

Chocolate: Did you know?
Most people enjoy chocolate and agree that it tastes wonderful, yet they also have misconceptions about its effect on health. Here are some facts about chocolate that you may not know.

Did you know... Chocolate and fat

Chocolate contributes less than two percent of the fat in the American diet. The main sources of fat are meat, full-fat dairy products, and fried foods.

Chocolate and saturated fats

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. 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.

Chocolate and caffeine

Chocolate contains very little caffeine. See the chart on the previous page for the caffeine content of a few foods and beverages.

Chocolate and obesity

Obesity is a disease in which a person has an excessive amount of body fat. Most often it is caused by regularly taking in more calories than burned off with physical activity. Obese people often eat the same amount or fewer sweets, including chocolate, than people who are not obese. Obesity can also stem from genetic or hormonal disorders, or from taking some types of medications for a long period of time.

Chocolate and polyphenols

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans which come from the cocoa tree Theobromacacao. As a result, chocolate contains many of the same healthy compounds from plants, including minerals (copper, iron, zinc, and magnesium) and specific antioxidants called polyphenols. Polyphenols, like those found in tea and red wine are currently being studied for their potential health benefits.

Chocolate and allergies

Allergies to chocolate are very uncommon. If you have been diagnosed with food allergies by a board-certified allergist, you must read labels and avoid the foods or ingredients that cause the allergic reaction. A registered dietitian can help you plan meals and select foods that exclude the food to which you are allergic.

Caffeine Content of Selected Foods and Beverages

Food or beverage
Caffeine content (mg)
Milk chocolate (1.4-ounce bar)
3 to 10
Dark chocolate (1.4-ounce bar)
Decaffeinated coffee (8 ounces)
Regular coffee (6 ounces)
65 to 150
Hot cocoa (8 ounces)
Cola beverages (12 ounces)
38 to 46
Cola beverages, decaffeinated (12 ounces)

Chocolate and diabetes

Diabetes occurs when a person's body doesn't properly regulate blood sugars (blood glucose). Eating certain foods, even simple sugar, does not cause diabetes. All people with diabetes should follow their physicians' and dietitians' instructions for meal planning, physical activity, blood glucose monitoring, and medication. So, if you have diabetes, ask your health professional how to incorporate chocolate into your eating plan.

Chocolate and headaches

Research shows that most headaches and chocolate intake are not related. Experts agree that most often it is stress, irregular sleep patterns, hunger, and hormone changes that trigger headaches.

Chocolate and tooth decay

Tooth decay happens when carbohydrates (both complex and simple) mix with natural bacteria in the mouth. This creates acid that breaks down the enamel on teeth. Chocolate, which contains carbohydrates, is no more or less responsible for tooth decay than other carbohydrate-containing foods like bread, raisins, crackers, and fruit. In fact, chocolate actually clears the mouth relatively quickly, reducing the time it spends in contact with the teeth.

Chocolate cravings

A recent study looked at why we crave chocolate and concluded that people do not become addicted to chocolate. Instead, the study found that people desire chocolate because they enjoy the sensation of eating it.

Chocolate and hyperactivity

Pediatricians say there is no link between the sugar found in chocolate or other foods and restlessness or attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.

Chocolate and health -- the bottom line

Remember that chocolate can fit into a healthful eating pattern. Be sure to eat a variety of foods. Enjoy chocolate in moderation to add flavor and pleasure to eating.

Party Cookies - click here for our Low Carb version!

1 cup shortening
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
2-1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups candy-coated chocolate pieces

Blend shortening, brown and granulated sugars in a large bowl. Beat in vanilla and eggs. Sift remaining dry ingredients together; add to sugar-egg mixture, blending well. Stir in 1/2 cup of candies (reserve remaining candies for decorating).

Drop from teaspoon on ungreased cookie sheet; decorate tops with remaining candies. Bake in moderate oven 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove cookies with spatula to wire racks; cool completely.

For more information
The American Dietetic Association/National Center for Nutrition and Dietetics
ADA's Consumer Nutrition Information Line (800/366-1655) provides recorded messages with timely, practical nutrition information as well as referrals to registered dietitians. Messages are available 24 hours daily with new topics each month.

This fact sheet is supported by a grant from Mars, Inc. Acceptance of this grant does not constitute an endorsement by ADA of any company's products or services.

(c)ADAF 2000 Reproduction of this fact sheet is permitted for educational purposes. Reproduction for sales purposes is not authorized.


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