Dietitian Devon Peart, MHSc, BASc, RD, explains.
As with any sweet treat, moderation is key. “One misconception often is, ‘Well, dark chocolate is good for me, so I can have however much I want,’” Peart says. “There are some benefits to dark chocolate in terms of antioxidants, like the flavanols. But they’re not compelling enough that we would say you should definitely include this in your diet. Pound for pound, it’s a high-calorie food. It’s definitely something to enjoy in moderation.”
Peart recommends thinking about your dark chocolate consumption much like you would consider your consumption of nuts. Both are filling — meaning, you don’t have to eat as much to feel satisfied — and high in fat, so they are high calorie. You want to stick to smaller portions.
“That being said, the reason why I do often recommend dark chocolate as a good option for a snack or a treat is because it has a strong bitter flavor,” Peart says. “We don’t need a lot of chocolate to enjoy it.”
Because of this strong flavor, dark chocolate is admittedly an acquired taste. “When people first have it, they usually don’t like it,” Peart says. She recommends starting at a less-bitter dark chocolate and moving up. “Start by having 50% dark chocolate and then move up to 65% and then 70% and work your way up.”
Although there are some downsides, dark chocolate is overall a healthier choice if you’re looking for a delicious way to finish off a meal. “And you’ll need less of it to get satisfaction than you would from other sweets,” Peart says. “Dark chocolate is comforting. It signals to your brain that you’re satisfied and finished. And it is satiety-inducing [feeling satisfied], so you are more likely to feel like you’ve had enough.”
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