Chocolate, the healthy food

Published 4:42 pm Friday, February 22, 2019

If you felt guilty eating the chocolate candy you got for Valentine’s Day, don’t. In some forms, chocolate or cocoa can be included on the list of top ten foods to be consumed several times a week. Cocoa is an excellent source of essential antioxidants, fiber, proteins, B-vitamins, iron and potassium with a very minimal amount of caffeine. Like many of our other foods, the darker in color, the higher percentage of pure cocoa, the greater the nutritional value it contains. Always strive for at least 80-percent cocoa or higher for the best benefits.

Not to confuse cocoa with chocolate, cocoa is made from the beans of the cacao tree grown in other parts of the world. The bean is extracted from its pod and roasted much like coffee beans. The fleshy part of the beans is then used to make cocoa. Cocoa beans naturally contain a butter fat and starch. Baking cocoa powder is made by grinding the beans and removing much of the cocoa butter. This results in a 22-percent less fat content and the healthier form of any chocolate product. Chocolate, on the other hand, is the ground bean with fat and all and usually made into a liquid or solid form. The chocolate usually preferred would be sweetened with a sugar and mixed with milk, giving it the taste we’ve grown to love.

Cocoa naturally is a little bitter in taste, so in preparation of most confections, sugar and perhaps other flavorings are added. So how can we turn chocolate into a healthy food? Since the natural fat in chocolate is a high-saturated fat or artery-clogging fat, a simple, lovely chocolate treat can be made by using baking cocoa powder and add a healthy fat or oil.

A general rule to modify any recipe calling for a hardened chocolate is to replace it with 3 ½ teaspoons of cocoa powder mixed with half a teaspoon of heart healthy oil such as canola, sunflower or vegetable oil. Below is a recipe to help you get the jest as to how to make your chocolate treats a lot healthier.

Simple Chocolate Sauce

Combine ½ cup water and ½ cup sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil for 1 minute. Then add ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder and whisk the mixture until it is well blended. If lumpy or clumpy, strain into a pint heat-proof jar and set aside. When cooled, cover the jar with a tight fitting lid and store in the refrigerator. Re-warm the sauce and serve over angel food cake or as a dip for fruit. Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 75 calories, 0.7gm fat, 0 cholesterol and only 5 mg sodium.


Best Brownie Snacking Cake

¾ cup sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ cup vegetable oil, ¼ cup plain non-fat yogurt, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 3 large egg whites, ½ cup all-purpose flour, ¼ teaspoon baking powder, 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, vegetable cooking spray, 1 ½ cups powdered sugar, 2 ½ tablespoons skim milk, 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, add the sugar, oil, yogurt, vanilla and egg whites and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Combine the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder. Combine the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, beating just until mixed. Pour the batter into an 8-inch baking pan sprayed with cooking spray. Bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven when done. Cool.

Combine the powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons cocoa and milk with a mixer until smooth. Spread the glaze over the cooled cake and serve when glaze is hardened slightly. Makes nine squares.

Per square: 185 calories, 3 gm protein, 5 gm fat, 33 gm carbohydrate, 26 mg calcium

So the next time you crave something a little “chocolatey,” whip up a batch of healthy brownies and enjoy, guilt-free!

Colleen S. Bucher is a licensed, registered dietitian with the Vidant Wellness Center. If you have any questions, please contact Colleen at