How do the chocolates at the grocery stack up? According to dietitian Gloria Tsang, author of the new book Go UnDiet: 50 Small Actions for Lasting Weight Loss and founder of nutrition network HealthCastle.com, many products you might find in the chocolates section of your grocery store or gift shop have much more sugar and fat than real chocolate.
"It's always a good idea to stick to real chocolate rather than candies and bars with chocolate flavoring," Tsang says. "But even when you're buying real chocolate, there are major nutritional differences between types that you may not be aware of."
Here's how she says some common chocolate product stack up:
- Cocoa powder: Cocoa powder ranks highest in flavonoids, and is also lower in calories than dark or milk chocolate. Try creating a custom cocoa drink for your sweetie, or look for chocolates dusted with real cocoa powder.
- Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate is a great source of flavonoids, though it contains about twice the fat and calories of cocoa powder. Its intense flavor makes it best for savoring, meaning one small square can often satisfy a sweet tooth craving. Look for the highest cocoa content you can find.
- Milk chocolate: Milk chocolate has about the same calories as dark chocolate, but it often contains no flavonoids at all. Flavonoids are only present if you find cocoa solids or cocoa liquor on the ingredient list, so if you're looking for heart benefits, check to make sure you know what you're getting.
- Chocolate candies: Chocolate candies (like M&Ms) have similar fat and calories as straight-up chocolate, but they tend to have candy shells that add artificial colors and flavors to the mix. Again, check for cocoa solids or cocoa liquor if you're looking for flavonoids – it's likely you won't find them.
- White chocolate: White chocolate does contain cocoa butter, but it does not contain any cocoa solids or cocoa liquor, so it does not offer any heart health benefits. It's a bit of a stretch to call it chocolate at all!
She advises no matter which chocolate product you choose to give this Valentine's Day, focus on quality, not quantity. A rich square of quality chocolate is a much more luxurious eating experience than gorging on cheaper chocolate candies, and it's much healthier, too. More simple, small achievable actions to reclaim health are available in Go UnDiet, now available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Kindle, and iBooks.
The Huffington Post named Gloria one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter, and her website, HealthCastle.com, was named one of the Top 50 Best Food Websites by The Independent. For more information about Gloria's media work, go to http://www.healthcastle.com/goundietbook/press.html.