Column Update: Chocolate

Since I wrote this column, a number of sugar-free chocolate products have gone off the market, while many new ones have appeared to fill the void. Hence the update.

“Health food” – how dreary! After all, everything that’s good for you tastes bad, or at the very least is dull to the point of joylessness. How sad, how prissy to eat only healthy foods – you know, like chocolate.

Yep, chocolate. The great passion. Food of the Gods. The substance 50% of women surveyed said they enjoy more than sex. The one thing low carb dieters are most certain they could never give up. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to give it up! Including chocolate in your low carb diet is likely to actually improve your health. Who says there isn’t a God?

Turns out chocolate is loaded with antioxidants similar to those in red wine. How good for you are those antioxidants? A recent study at the University of California at San Francisco showed that eating 1.6 ounces a day of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate improved blood flow through the
all-important blood vessels feeding the heart muscle. A 2003 study showed that chocolate can also reduce “platelet aggregation” – clotting, while still other studies show chocolate reduces the dangerous oxidation of LDL “bad” cholesterol. All of this adds up to chocolate being pretty
darned heart-healthy.

What about the carb count? By itself, chocolate is not particularly high-carb. A one-ounce square of unsweetened baking chocolate contains 8.65 grams of carbohydrate, of which 4.8 grams are fiber, for a usable carb count of just 3.85 grams. One tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder – an even richer source of antioxidants -- contains 2.93 grams of carbohydrate, with 1.8 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 1.13 grams. That’s a heckuva bargain for something with so much great flavor that’s healthy to boot!

One little snag: Plain chocolate is mighty bitter, and those antioxidants don’t change the fact that sugar is not your pal. How much sugar is there in chocolate candy? One ounce of semi-sweet chocolate contains 17.89 grams of carbohydrate, with only 1.7 grams fiber, while one ounce of milk chocolate contains 17.25 grams of carbohydrate, with 1 gram of fiber. That makes regular chocolate candy pretty hard to fit into a diet that limits non-fiber carbs to less than, let’s say, 50
grams a day. To fit it in, you’d need to cut out other foods – like vegetables, low sugar fruits, and nuts and seeds, all of which are at least as healthy as chocolate. This is not a nutritional bargain.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to get your chocolate fix without loading up on sugar.

* Look to your left. You will notice a picture of a bag of chocolate chips. These are CarbSmart semi-sweet chocolate chips, perfect for making cookies and all your other chocolate chip needs, including eating a few out of your hand while dumping them in the cookie dough, or dropping a few in an after-dinner cup of coffee. They come complete with a chocolate chip cookie recipe by yours truly; you can also get the recipe at the CarbSmart site, along with one for chocolate-chocolate chip cookies. These originated as MiniCarb brand chocolate chips, notable for their lack of sugar alcohols, which can make one... well, socially offensive. When MiniCarb went out of business, CarbSmart bought out their remaining stock, plus the rights to the formula. Click to your left to buy them, and many other fine low carb products, include many brands of sugar-free chocolate.

* My pal Jimmy Moore of Livin' La Vida Low Carb has a sugar-free dark chocolate raspberry bar with his very own name and photo on the wrapper. If you're a chocolate-with-fruit fan, these are recommended -- the chocolate and raspberry flavors are evenly balanced, the bar contains no maltitol, and they have a melt-in-your-mouth texture that comes from the healthful coconut oil they contain. You can also get ChocoPerfection bars at the same link -- sugar-free dark chocolate with no sugar alcohols.

* I adore Dove's sugar-free dark chocolate and sugar-free dark chocolate with mint. These have the sinfully creamy texture you've come to expect from Dove chocolate. And since they come in little individually-wrapped bites, I can eat one or two, a few times a day. Portion control is our friend. These also come in dark chocolate raspberry. All three do contain maltitol.

* Hershey's puts out a line of sugar-free chocolates. Sugar-free mini Reese's cups are a staple in my house; they taste just like the regular ones. Hershey's also puts out mini-Special Dark bars and mini-milk chocolate bars. I don't like the Special Dark as well as the Dove dark, but I like it well enough, and since it's a good 30% cheaper, I often buy it. I can find all three of these sugar-free Hershey's products at my local CVS pharmacy.

* Do you have a local shop that carries imported chocolate? Sahara Mart, here in Bloomington, has a fifty-foot wall of chocolate, an impressive sight. And amidst all that sugary chocolate there's Guylian's, a Belgian brand, which comes in sugar-free dark and sugar-free dark with orange, which I adore.

* Many specialty chocolate shops carry sugar-free chocolates; I look for these around the holidays. If you have a favorite chocolate shop, it's worth taking a look. The selection isn't likely to be as big as that of sugary chocolates, but hey, if you can get some sugar-free almond bark or peanut clusters, it's worth it.

* I am now going to speak low carb heresy: If you cannot find good sugar-free chocolate where you live, I would not fault you for eating a few squares of high quality sugared dark chocolate each day. Note the words "a few squares." This is not license to eat a couple of bars a day. But the stuff that's 70% cocoa or more has little enough sugar in it, and enough antioxidants, that it likely to be worthwhile, especially if it keeps you out of the Oreos.

* Hood Dairy’s Carb Countdown Dairy Beverage has become Calorie Countdown, but the low carb formula remains the same. If you can find it locally, it comes in a great chocolate version. Zap a cup in the microwave for a quick cup of cocoa! 2 grams of usable carb per serving.

* For that matter, Swiss Miss Diet Cocoa has a big 4 grams of carb per cup. It's not the season for it, I realize. But come fall, a few packets of this in your desk drawer will help save you from the vending machines and break-room donuts.

* Sugar free chocolate pudding can be made with Calorie Countdown, if you can get it, or with half heavy cream/half water. Comfort food! I occasionally make sugar-free chocolate instant pudding. It's way too sweet and nowhere near chocolaty enough for me, so I add a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder to it. More antioxidants!

* Bake up some sugar-free chocolate treats! Serve these with a glass of dry red wine for an after-dinner indulgence – er, I mean nutritional supplement!

Espresso Chocolate Chip Brownies

1 cup Splenda
1/2 cup vanilla whey protein powder
1/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon instant coffee crystals (use decaf if you prefer)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 large eggs
1/4 cup water
6 ounces sugar free chocolate chips
OR
6 ounces sugar free dark chocolate bars, chopped to chocolate chip size in the food processor

Preheat oven to 350

Put Splenda, vanilla whey protein, almond meal, cocoa, instant coffee crystals, and salt in a food processor with the S-blade in place. Pulse to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until the butter is well combined with the dry ingredients. Turn out into a bowl. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Then beat in the water. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips or chopped up chocolate bars. Spray an 8x8" square pan with non-stick cooking spray, and spread batter evenly
in the pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes - do not overbake! Cool, and cut into squares.

I make 25 small brownies from this - I like to have the option of having a little something, and if I want more, I can always have two. If you do, indeed, make 25, each brownie will have 3 grams of carbohydrate, and 1 gram of fiber, for a usable carb count of 2 grams. Also 3 grams of protein.

(Reprinted by permission from 500 More Low-Carb Recipes by Dana Carpender, 2004, Fair Winds Press)

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Chocolate Almonds

I buy the dark chocolate covered almonds at CVS (their brand). They are really big and have a little over 1 carb each. I have about 5 of those in the afternoon with a cup of flavored hot tea...so nice!

Donna

chocolates

I love Russel Stover Sugar Free Dark Chocolate. RS has many other flavors, like pecan delight, chocolate covered caramel and truffles, which are good, but based on milk chocolate. The pharmacy where I find the dark chocolate, and the one grocery store that has them always run out of the dark before anything else. I've asked them to order more, but so far it hasn't happened.

I can get Hershey's sugar free several places, but it's too sweet.

Different brands have different...well, effects

Hi, Dana, newbie here. I enjoy your books so much!
On the subject of s.f. chocolate, my experience is that different brands have a different effect on me, even though they all contain polyols. I cannot eat the Reese's cups (darn!), but Trader Joe's sells a wonderful chocolate bar (milk chocolate is my choice) that has no discernable effect. Somewhat of a "red light" food for me, though!

Sugar-free Chocolate

Hi Dana,
Thanks for all the information on suger-free chocolate. I have two brands that I like: Godiva makes a suger-free dark chocolate bar that is very good and I can find it at my local Macy's. The other brand I like is Sorbee Dark Chocolate (IMO, their milk chocolate is bad) and I've found it in my local military commissary both in Virginia and San Diego.

On another note, I've recently re-read your "How I Gave up My Low-Fat Diet..." book and have been inspired to get back on a low-carb diet. I've gone back and forth over the past several years and I definately feel 100% better without most carbs in my life. It's been just over two months and I'm down 25 pounds, have a ton of energy and clearer outlook, and generally feel good. I'm determined to stick with it this time and that's where reading your book again, and these posts, is helping to motivate me.

Cheers,
Bobbie

I have found a brand of

I have found a brand of sugar-free chocolate that I love at a gourmet/ethnic market near me: http://ycchocolate.com/. They have a dark chocolate with orange, dark chocolate with almonds, and plain. They are seriously good. They also make a milk chocolate bar, which I don't care for as much. I've never been a milk chocolate fan, and I do love me some 70% (or more) cocoa chocolate.

I have found the sugar-free Reeses cups at Walmart, and they are good, but I absolutely cannot have more than two at a time, or serious gastric protests ensue.

Lots of choices

Hi Dana , I guess I did not realize how many choices there were . I did know about Jimmy Moore's bar though and ordered it once and loved it , I was able to digest it with no problem too . I do know I have to stay away from all maltitol so it limits what I can use . It's good to know that when things get desperate one can have a piece or two of 70% dark chocolate and it will do the trick . I also read that if it's mixed with dairy it looses it's benefits , I don't know how true that is .