Sports Therapy and Pilates

The Benefits of Dark Chocolate….and How Much is Too Much?!

With Easter around the corner I thought I’d look at Dark Chocolate, its health benefits, nutritional content, and how we can incorporate it into a healthier lifestyle with some snack ideas.

What is Dark Chocolate?

Dark chocolate is the richest variety of chocolate you can buy. It is often bitter to taste due to its higher cocoa solid percentage. Most brands of dark chocolate will contain 70%, 85% or 90% cocoa solids, with no milk, and reduced sugar contents.

What is the Nutritional Content of Dark Chocolate?

This will vary from brand to brand. But generally, the difference between a 70% bar and an 85% bar are as follow:

20g Serving 70% 85%
Fat 8g 10g
Unsaturated Fat 5g 6g
Sugar 6g 3g
Fibre 2g 2.5g
Protein 2g 2.5g

It also naturally high in:

  • Iron – Makes our oxygen carrying red blood cells.
  • Copper – Triggers the release of iron to form haemoglobin.
  • Magnesium – Produces hormones to aid bone health.

Dark chocolate also contains several compounds that possess antioxidant properties such as flavanols and polyphenols. Antioxidants neutralise free radicals and help prevent oxidative stress, and flavanols improve the cells that line the insides of our blood vessels and potentially reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Some studies have also shown that flavanols can offer some protection against neuromuscular diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

How Much Should I Eat?

Even knowing the above health benefits dark chocolate should still only be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet, in moderation and as an occasional treat. Around 20g is a good size, which is normally 6 small squares, or 2 large squares.

Healthy Snack Ideas:

You can still get that hit of dark chocolate whilst following a healthy lifestyle. Incorporating it into snacks for pre or post training or during longer endurance training and racing can be easily done. Try these recipes that give you that chocolate fix in a balanced way!

Dark Chocolate and Goji Berry Balls (tested and enjoyed from fitr woman app):

75g 70% dark chocolate

100g cashew nuts

50g walnuts

50g hazelnuts

4 tbsp goji berries

1 tbsp cinammon

2 tbsp honey

Put nuts, goji berries, cinnamon and dark chocolate in blender. Pulse until broken into small chunks. Tip into a large bowl.

Add in honey. Mix together and hand roll into 12 balls.

Leave to set in fridge.

Double Chocolate, Walnut and Greek Yoghurt Brownies (tested and enjoyed from Anita Bean; The Runners Cookbook):

100g 70% dark chocolate

4 tbsp olive oil

100g brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g ground almonds

1 tsp baking powder

50g self-raising flour

25g cocoa powder

3 tbsp plain low-fat Greek yoghurt

75g walnuts, roughly chopped

Pre-heat oven to 180˚C/160˚C fan/gas mark 4.

Line a 20cm (8in) square tin.

Melt the chocolate, in a bowl over a pan of boiling water or in the microwave.

Put the olive oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, almonds, baking powder, flour, cocoa powder and yoghurt in a large bowl or mixer and mix until well combined. Should be a fairly soft mixture, if too stiff add extra yoghurt or milk.

Stir in the melted chocolate and walnuts.

Spoon the mixture into the tin, smooth the surface and bake for 20 mins until risen and firm.

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 mins, cut into 12 squares.

Chocolate and Berry Rocky Road (tested and enjoyed from fitr woman app):

100g 70% dark chocolate

100g mixed nuts

3 tbsp goji berries

2 tbsp honey

Handful of dried berries

Melt the dark chocolate and honey in a bowl.

Blend goji berries. Add to melted chocolate and honey.

Add in nuts and mix together.

Pour mixture onto a lined baking tray and spread evenly.

Sprinkle dried berries on top.

Leave to set in a fridge overnight. Cut into bite size pieces.

Enjoy these chocolatey treats, not just as Easter, but all year round, knowing they are healthier options and contain dark chocolate in moderation!

Written by Rhea Malkin BSc (Hons) Sports Therapist and STOTT/APPI Pilates Instructor.

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