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Good news! Chocolate is a healthy indulgence

February 12, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Besides helping your heart, chocolate has other health benefits. Americans have always loved chocolate, but now trendier and weirder ingredients are showing up paired with it. "People love their chocolate and they're not willing to give it up when the bank account shrinks a little," said Krista Faron, a Mintel analyst.

Faron says despite the economic downturn we continue to buy the sweet stuff.

"Chocolate has been high throughout the recession. Sales have been high and sales have been consistent," said Faron.

On top of their game, chocolatier Christian Alexandre and his wife make 60 different types at L'Artisan du Chocolat. Of course they do classics like truffles, but chocolate with bacon, olive, shitake mushroom, garlic and tomato?

"We need to do something different that make people attracted to us because it is something that is unusual," said Alexandre.

"Realistically the average chocolate eater still eats carmel, hazelnut, marshmallow," said Faron.

A few years back, 80-percent of Americans preferred milk chocolate over white or dark, yet that's changing with news that dark is deliciously healthy.

"We really do see a shift in terms of more Americans embracing dark chocolate over milk chocolate," said Faron.

"Eight years ago 60-percent of the sales were milk chocolate, now I can tell you more than 75-percent is the dark chocolate," said Alexandre.

"The flavanols in deep dark chocolate, the kind that have high cocoa content are very protective of the heart and blood pressure," said nutritionist Dr. Jonny Bowden.

It was the 2004 British Medical Journal that made chocoholics happy with the suggestion that we should include dark chocolate in our day along with antioxidant packed foods like green tea, colorful fruits, vegetables and red wine.

A separate study found those who ate dark chocolate had fewer cravings after consuming it than those who ate milk chocolate, which researchers attribute to more cocoa butter which contains stearic acid -- slowing digestion and regulating appetite.

But with two bites a calorie, packed 50 to 80 calories, it is also important to note that less is best. The studies on chocolate show it is a one ounce serving that does the body good.