Even the most conscientious eater has cravings, and if chocolate is your big weakness, at least be proud that you picked something that actually contains antioxidants, assuming you’re eating dark chocolate.
Life is too short for junk-food chocolate. If you’re going to eat the stuff, go gourmet! Dark is better, nutritionally speaking, than either milk or “white” chocolate.
Warning: Chemistry lesson ahead!
Antioxidants are basically a chemical clean-up crew. Scientists believe that free radicals, errant molecules released by metabolic processes, travel around your system. They damage tissues along the way because they have an odd number of electrons, and when they find an extra electron in a cell, they mooch onto it, which stabilizes the free radical but damages the cell. Antioxidants “donate” an electron to free radicals, disarming them and therefore helping prevent all kinds of illnesses, ranging from skin damage to cancer. Therefore, you want lots of antioxidants in your diet.
Back to the chocolate, a far more pleasant topic.
Seems chocoholics all have strong preferences – milk vs. dark. Nobody chooses their favorite chocolate according to the nutrition label, of course, but if you’re in the dark chocolate camp you can pat yourself on the back, because dark chocolate not only contains antioxidants that milk chocolate lacks, it also has less sugar. It delivers a stronger kick thanks to its higher caffeine content, too, but that may not be a good thing if you’re trying to drift off to sleep an hour after dessert.
Dark chocolate also seems to satisfy that primal chocolate craving in smaller amounts. The stuff is just too rich to gobble by the bagful – another good argument in its favor, because if you’ve had enough after two pieces you’ll take in far fewer calories with your indulgence than if you scarfed down half a pound (or more?) before feeling you hit your limit.
If you haven’t already discovered the treasure trove of dark chocolate that Trader Joe’s peddles, take a close look, but maybe not when your craving is in high gear or you’ll certainly overdose. Much of the chocolate goodies are on the recessed shelves at eye level over the frozen-food bins, and some are stashed by the cashiers. Trader Joe’s offers a plethora of dark-chocolate-covered fruits and candies, but if you’re a purist, savor their variety of dark chocolate bars – much of them large bars labeled according to their cocoa content. The higher the percentage, the “darker” and more bitter the bar. (If a 70 percent cocoa bar is too harsh for you, back off and try the 60 percent instead. Another warning: 90 percent dark chocolate, which I found recently at Target rather than Trader Joe’s, is pretty much the same as unsweetened baking chocolate, at least according to my taste buds. Turns out you CAN get too much of a good dark thing.)
My current favorite dark chocolate fix is in the form of the relatively small bars of Trader Joe’s-brand dark chocolate, labeled only as “dark chocolate,” with the detail about 56 percent minimum cocoa solids hidden in the nutrition label. These little delicacies are packaged in three-bar packets. A serving size is one bar (1.75 oz., costing $1.79), which contains 290 calories, 18 g fat, no sodium, 21 g of sugar – and, surprise bonus! – 3 g of protein. I’m a certified chocolate addict but even I couldn’t eat a whole bar at a time. I manage to stop at a quarter to a third of the bar – that’s enough for the day and I haven’t inhaled a horrifying number of calories with my chocolate splurge. I get my Trader Joe’s dark-chocolate fix at one of two TJ’s stores: one in Temecula, at 40665 Winchester Rd., Temecula, CA 92591 (to reach it by phone, call 951-296-9964); and south Corona, in the Dos Lagos shopping center, at 2790 Cabot Drive, Corona, CA 92883 (951-603-0299). To find the Trader Joe’s closest to you, use their online store locator: http://www.traderjoes.com/stores/index.asp
By the way, I have never received any pay, freebies, discounts or other perks from Trader Joe’s in exchange for this or any other blog post. (I’ve never even won a batch of free groceries in their bring-your-own bag raffles, though not for lack of trying.)