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Do You Know Nutrition: Eating chocolate may not be as bad as you think

By By Phylis Canion
Oct. 15, 2013 at 5:15 a.m.


I love chocolate, but I am giving up caffeine. Is there really that much caffeine in a piece of chocolate? I look forward to your answer - I think.

Caffeine is a white, bitter, crystalline xanthine alkaloid that is a psychoactive stimulant naturally produced in the leaves, nuts, fruits and seeds of a variety of plants. One of these plants is the cocoa tree, in which the caffeine is found in the seeds called cocoa beans.

During chocolate making, the husk that surrounds each cocoa bean is removed through a process of breaking the bean into pieces, separating the bean from the husk and then winnowing away the lighter husk from the heavier nibs. It is the nibs that contain the caffeine. The more nibs used to make chocolate, the more caffeine the chocolate will contain.

Caffeine is defined as a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system and is found in teas, coffees, chocolate, many soft drinks, over-the-counter medications and pain relievers. To give you an idea of caffeine content, there is approximately 150 milligrams in an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee (about 20 Hershey bars), 20 milligrams in 1 ounce of dark chocolate, 10 milligrams in a 6-ounce cup of cocoa, 5 to 10 milligrams in 1 ounce of bittersweet chocolate and 5 milligrams in 1 ounce of milk chocolate.

So which chocolate can you eat until your heart's content and consume no caffeine? White chocolate. In case you are wondering about the difference in chocolates, unsweetened chocolate is made of pure chocolate liquor mixed with fat, which is usually cocoa butter.

Dark chocolate is made from cocoa solids or cocoa liquor, to which fat and sugar have been added. Milk chocolate, which is made similarly to dark chocolate, uses less cocoa and adds milk powder or condensed milk. Semi-sweet chocolate is a low-sugar type of dark chocolate used in cooking.

White chocolate is made from cocoa butter and sugar and contains no cocoa solids. Oh, and did I tell you that chocolate contains phenylethylamine, a natural substance that is reputed to stimulate the same reaction in the body as falling in love?

Thought for the week: Chocolate is cheaper than therapy, and you don't need an appointment - Catherine Aitken.

The next cooking class is schedule for Wednesday at the Cooking Depot in Cuero. Class begins at 5:30 p.m., and reservations are required. Call 361-275-2725 to RSVP; seats are limited.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant. Email her at doc.phyl@yahoo.com. This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.

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