Dark chocolate. An ounce or so a few times a week (to borrow Michael Pollan’s formula). For many of us, this little prescription flies in the face of a decades-deep divide between what we want to eat (chocolate) and what we feel we should eat (carrot sticks and celery). But nature didn’t intend it to be that way.
The cocoa in chocolate, like most plant-based foods, boasts a cocktail of compounds that fall under the collective category of phytonutrients (which simply means “plant nutrients”). There are thousands and thousands of phytonutrients that impact our health in all sorts of ways, from lowering blood pressure to preventing cancer to boosting the immune system. The irony is, these little powerhouses are also what make plant-based foods look and smell and taste the way they do. Think about that a second; the very stuff that makes food pleasurable is also making us healthy. Now there’s a paradigm shift.
So back to that chocolate.
I could go into the details of which phytonutrients play a role in making chocolate so healthy and cite statistics of how much they lower the risk of this or that. Or I could just tell you that if you finished off a few evenings this week savoring a square or two of dark chocolate* it would be a very good thing.
* This is one time you’ll want to look at the label. It’s the cocoa in chocolate that packs the nutritional punch, so a good rule of thumb is to choose dark chocolate bars with a cocoa content higher than 50%. Sugar may sweeten the deal, but it also adds empty calories. If you’re not yet used to dark chocolate’s strong taste you’re in for a treat; it can be enticingly complex and nuanced. Keep it interesting by experimenting with several brands and flavors.