14 February 2013 Chocolate News Update

Guest post for MyNetDiary by Donna P. Feldman, MS, RD

Is a box of chocolate truffles in your future? Valentine's Day is today, and with it loads of chocolate candy. Happily, chocolate is not merely a lot of empty calories wrapped in a delicious flavor. In fact, last summer the European Food Safety Authority agreed that chocolate makers can put health claims on product packages. The EFSA members based their decision on results of more than 20 human studies which show that chocolate flavanols improve blood flow. That means they're good for heart health. The decision even included recommended daily amounts for chocolate intake to get the health benefit:

  • 2.5 grams of high flavanol cocoa powder OR
  • 10 grams of high flavanol dark chocolate.

Bring on the chocolate truffles! Keep in mind, these are rather small amounts. Ten grams of dark flavanol-rich chocolate is less than 1/2 ounce, a piece that's 1/4 inch thick add 1/2 inch by 1-1/2 inches. Just enough for one bite of pure chocolate, roughly 50 calories. However, it's conceivable that the chocolate covering on the average truffle would be roughly this amount.

How can you tell which chocolate has the most flavanols? You want chocolate with the highest cacao content, and the darker the chocolate the higher the cacao content. Chocolate that's 100% cacao, such as unsweetened baking chocolate, would have the most flavanols. Most people would not enjoy eating that, since it would lack any sweetness and have a strong bitter taste. Lower flavanol milk chocolate is the most popular choice. But because it has a lower flavanol content, you'd have to eat more of it to get the flavanol health benefit, which means eating more calories.

Of course, most of us don't just eat chocolate for the health benefits. We love the flavor, and the seemingly endless combinations of chocolate, whether dark or milk, with other flavors and foods, from nuts to caramel to coconut to chili to mint, and on and on.

If a box of chocolate truffles is in your future, you can enjoy Valentine chocolates and get a health benefit without breaking the calorie bank. Portion control is built in, since the truffles are all packaged in individual wrappers. Allow yourself one per day. Take it out and close the box. It's a good idea to put the box away so you aren't tempted to take more than you intended.

Now don't just mindlessly pop the whole truffle in your mouth while you're busy working on the computer or watching television. Put it on a dessert plate. Cut it into 2 or 3 pieces, and savor each bite. Chocolate truffles aren't potato chips or celery sticks. If any food should be eaten mindfully, it's chocolate.

What's the calorie cost? Pure chocolate has about 150 calories per ounce. Truffles are something of a mystery. They come in so many shapes and sizes, with different filling. The big name chocolate truffle companies don't seem too eager to post nutrition information on their websites. It's hard to be exact about calories, since each box has truffle several varieties. In general, one ounce is 150-170 calories. The MyNetDiary database lists "chocolate truffle" at 165 calories per ounce. If your truffle box doesn't have a nutrition facts panel, you can do some quick math to get a general idea of the average truffle calories:

  1. Weight of box in ounces divided by number of truffles = average weight per truffle.
  2. Weight of average truffle times 165 = approximate calorie count.

Again, these calorie counts will be estimates. To get a sense of how frustrating the search for calorie information can be, check out the nutrition facts for Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. By clicking on each item, you get lots of nutrition information. Trouble is, there is no information about the weight of the item. You have to assume they're all made to a uniform weight. But at least it's something. A modest size chocolate butter cream truffle from this company is 80 calories. Not bad for an after-dinner treat.

The takeaway message: chocolate is a delicious indulgence and has health benefits. What could be better in a food? If you're lucky enough to receive a box of chocolate, savor each one, just not all at once.

For a funny take on the health benefits of chocolate, check out this Super Bowl 2013 ad. A genie is granting wishes:

Woman: "I wish I could eat as much chocolate a I want." (Switch scenes to a doctor's office. She's sitting on the exam table.)

Doctor: "Well your chocolate levels are dangerously low. Gladys is going to start you on a chocolate IV, and here's some free samples"

A chocolate IV? Hmm, I wonder what the calorie count is for that.

Donna P. Feldman MS RDN

Nutrition journalist at Radio Nutrition

Co-host: Walk Talk Nutrition podcast.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

Tags:

Foods & Recipes/Chocolate Holidays / Parties/Valentine's Day

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