Many diet plans forbid chocolate and desserts, claiming that the sweet will pack on the pounds.

But nothing could be further from the truth! Eaten in moderation, chocolate promotes health, happiness, and well-being.

What chocolate does (besides taste yummy)

• Promotes heart health

A recent research study found that women who ate one or two servings of dark chocolate per week cut their risk of heart failure by a third. Another study has shown that a square of dark chocolate lowered blood pressure and reduced the risk of heart attacks and stroke by up to 39 percent.

• Helps you lose weight

A Danish study found that dark chocolate is filling, and it satisfies cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods. So eat up! Dark chocolate, eaten in moderation, should make it easier for you to stick with your diet.

• Prevents diabetes

It sounds counterintuitive, but an Italian study found that people who ate a dark chocolate bar per day saw their potential for insulin resistance drop by 50 percent. Flavonoids increase oxide production, which helps control insulin sensitivity.

• Reduces stress

Swiss researchers found that when anxious or stressed out people ate 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate every day for two weeks, their cortisol levels went down significantly.

• Protects your skin

A British study discovered that after three months of eating dark chocolate, participant’s’ skin took longer to develop the reddening effect that indicates the start of a sunburn. So, dark chocolate actually protects your skin from premature aging and sun damage.

• Boosts your brainpower

Another British study found that drinking dark cocoa rich in flavanols boosts blood flow to key parts of the brain for several hour, improving cognitive performance and alertness.

• Relieves coughs

One study found that dark chocolate alleviate coughs as effectively as codeine without the negative side effects, due to the theobromine it contains. Theobromine suppresses activity in the part of the brain called the vagus nerve.

3 healthy chocolate desserts

Are you craving a chocolate dessert but don’t want all the added sugar, fat, and calories? Here are some delicious and healthy chocolate desserts that reap all the above mentioned health benefits:

1. Chocolate Tofu Mousse

Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 75 minutes

This recipe features soymilk and silken tofu, which reduces the fat content. It also contains 5 grams of fiber per serving.

Ingredients

• 8 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate

• 1 cup soy milk

• 1/2 vanilla bean

• 10 ounces silken tofu

• 1/3 cup raspberries

• 1/4 cup blueberries

Directions

• To make the ganache, place chopped bittersweet chocolate in a bowl

• in a saucepan, combine the soy milk and scraped vanilla bean and bring to a boil

• Pour over the chocolate, and let stand one minute

• Remove the vanilla bean, and whisk until smooth

• Drain the tofu and process it in a blender until creamy

• Add the ganache and blend for 30 seconds

• Refrigerate until mousse is firm (roughly 1 hour)

• Place the berries on top

2. Chocolate Butterscotch Brownies

Prep time: 20 minutes

Total time: 55 minutes

This recipe contains a low amount of sugar, thanks to a combination of bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate. It also provides two grams of fiber and 25 mg of calcium.

Ingredients

• Nonstick cooking spray

• 4 tablespoons butter

• 2 ounces unsweetened chopped chocolate

• 1/4 cup low-fat sour cream

• 1/4 cup white sugar

• 1/2 cup brown sugar

• 2 eggs

• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

• 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

• 1/4 teaspoon salt

• 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

• 1/2 cup butterscotch chips

• 2 teaspoons low fat milk

Directions

• Preheat oven to 325 degrees

• Coat an 8-inch baking pan with cooking spray

• Melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat

• Remove pan from heat and stir in sour cream, sugars, eggs, and vanilla

• Stir in flour, salt, and chocolate chips

• Pour the mixture into the pan

• Bake for 35 minutes

• Remove, let cool, and cut into 16 squares

• Melt the butterscotch chips in a pan over low heat and add milk, whisking until smooth

• Drizzle each brownie with butterscotch sauce

3. Chocolate-Dipped Banana Bites

Prep time: 5 minutes

Total time: 10 minutes

This recipe couldn’t be simpler, healthier, or tastier. Plus, bananas are a great source of fiber and potassium. Each serving contains 190 calories and 4 grams of fiber.

Ingredients

• 2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips

• 1 small banana, cut into 1-inch chunks

Directions

• Place chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl

• Microwave on high for 1 minute or until chocolate is melted

• Dp the banana pieces in the chocolate

Great health was never so sweet

Cacao, a component of chocolate, is packed with healthy chemicals like flavonoids and theobromine. However, because cacao in and of itself is bitter, most chocolate bars contain milk, sugar, and butter, all of which are high in fat and calories. But you can still reap the health benefits of cacao if you choose chocolate bars that contain at least 70 percent cacao or cocoa. Limit yourself to four chocolate bars a week.

References

  1. "25 Light Chocolate Dessert Recipes," Taste of Home, September 30, 2016.
  2. "100+ Lightened Chocolate Desserts," Cooking Light, October 25, 2016.
  3. "Quick Chocolate Dessert Recipes," MarthaStewart.com, February 26, 2016.
  4. "Sweet Treats: Light Chocolate Desserts," Fitness, January 29, 2013.

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