Satisfy your cravings with these healthier chocolate recipes
By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column
Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
Is chocolate the answer to bad moods, high stress, and broken hearts? Maybe not, but lots of women feel it comes pretty darn close. A world without chocolate would be a pretty tasteless place.
Chocolate is the superstar of food cravings: 68% of women's food cravings are for chocolate. (I can tell you that I, for one, am somewhere in that 68%.) And the time we crave it the most? Apparently, it's an afternoon delight. Don't even try to get between a woman in need and a candy bar machine around 3 o'clock!
A recent review study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association said that "chocolate cravings are real." Any woman in the midst of PMS could have told them that! And ignoring those cravings may not be such a good idea. A recent study on normal-weight women, published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, suggested that forbidding chocolate only leads to greater temptation -- and greater chocolate consumption.
For many, "comfort" is synonymous with chocolate. Some of the top-rated comfort foods? Try chocolate cookies, chocolate cake, brownies, and chocolate ice cream. It's no coincidence that both versions of the "Better Than Sex Cake" recipes that made their way across America several years ago featured chocolate.
No food tantalizes the taste buds quite like chocolate. It represents a divine blend of more than 500 flavors (2 1/2 times more flavors than any other food!) And no other food has its sensual depth -- even its melting point is sensual: Chocolate melts almost immediately in response to human touch because its melting point is just below body temperature.
Couple that with chocolate's other appealing characteristics -- like the blend of fat and sugar, the smooth texture, and arousing aroma -- and you've got quite possibly the most alluring food on the planet!
But our attraction to chocolate goes even further than that. There may be a hormonal link to chocolate cravings, as they often come and go with the monthly hormonal fluctuations and mood swings of women. There also happen to be several biologically active substances in chocolate (methylxanthines, biogenic amines, cannabinoid-like fatty acids) that may cause psychological sensations similar to addictive substances, according to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Here's the best news of all: Chocolate may actually be good for you (at least in the form of cocoa). Cocoa beat out red wine and green and black tea as having the highest levels of heart-healthy antioxidant activity, according to a recent study. The researchers also noted that cocoa had much higher levels of two phytochemicals (total phenolics and flavonoids) than the wine or tea. The flavonoids found in cocoa are thought to benefit the heart in a couple of ways, including possible antioxidant protection.
Chocolate-Mocha Angel Food Cake
Journal as 1 portion sweet dessert.
The flavor combination of chocolate, coffee, and sugar in this cake is simply addicting. I love how you can take something simple like an angel food cake mix and make it spectacular with just a few added ingredients.
1 box (1-pound size) one-step angel food cake mix
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/3 cups very strong decaffeinated coffee, cooled
8 ounces light whipping cream or Light Cool Whip (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Move oven rack to lowest position if you're using a tube pan, or the middle position for loaf pans.
- Mix cake mix with cocoa in large glass or metal bowl at low speed until blended.
- Pour in coffee and mix at low speed until moistened. Then beat exactly 1 minute at medium speed. Pour batter into an ungreased tube pan (10x4-inch) or two (9x5-inch loaf pans).
- Bake 35 to 45 minutes for tube pan, and 33 to 43 minutes for loaf pans. Cake is done when crust is deep golden brown and cracks on top appear dry. DO NOT UNDERBAKE.
- Cool tube cake upside down on a glass bottle or heatproof surface until completely cool. Cool loaves in pans tipped on side on cooling rack until completely cool.
- Loosen edges with flat knife or metal spatula to remove from pans.
- Whip up whipped cream if desired, adding powdered sugar to taste toward end of whipping.
Makes 12 servings.
Per serving (without whipped cream): 159 calories, 4 g protein, 36 g carbohydrate, 0.5 g fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 331 mg sodium, 1 g fiber. Calories from fat: 3%. Per serving (with light whipping cream): 214 calories, 21 mg cholesterol, 6 g fat (25% calories from fat).
Journal 1 cookie as 1/4 cup cold cereal, granola.
Nothing beats a warm chocolate chip oatmeal cookie right from the oven!
5 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons fat-free cream cheese
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup white sugar (Splenda can be substituted)
1/4 cup egg substitute
3/4 cup white or whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In mixing bowl, cream together butter, cream cheese, brown and white sugars. Add egg substitute and beat well.
- Add flour, soda, salt, and vanilla to butter mixture and beat until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips, oatmeal, and nuts if desired. Blend thoroughly.
- Use a cookie scoop to drop cookie dough onto a cookie sheet coated with canola cooking spray. To make a flatter cookie, spray the bottom of a flat-bottomed glass with canola cooking spray and press onto the cookie dough balls.
- Bake in center of oven until lightly golden (about 8 minutes.) Remove cookies and let cool on wire rack.
Makes 22 large cookies.
Per cookie: 134 calories, 2 g protein, 19 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 135 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 40%.
One-Bowl (Better-for-You) Brownies
Journal 1 small brownie as 1/2 portion sweet dessert.
This is a great recipe if you like your brownies on the cakey side. They are moist and full of chocolate flavor (because it's loaded with cocoa), but low in calories and saturated fat because canola oil (and not much of it) is used in place of butter.
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons fat-free sour cream (light can be substituted)
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (1/2 cup can be substituted with Splenda if desired)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or powder
1 large egg
1/2 cup egg substitute
3/4 cup cocoa (sift the cocoa first if it is in chunks)
1 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chips -- white, milk, or semisweet (optional)
Powdered sugar for sprinkling on top (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch square baking pan with canola cooking spray.
- Add canola oil, sour cream, corn syrup, sugar (and Splenda if desired), and vanilla to large mixing bowl and beat well by hand or with mixer on low speed.
- Add in the egg, egg substitute, and cocoa, beating well after each addition and until lumps are gone.
- Add flour, baking powder, and salt to a 2 cup measure and blend briefly with a fork. Add dry ingredients to batter in mixing bowl and mix by hand or with mixer just until blended. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips if desired.
- Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in center of oven for 22 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.
- Sprinkle top with a little bit of powdered sugar if desired.
Makes 25 little brownies (or 12 larger ones).
Per small serving (using 1/2 cup of Splenda): 99 calories, 2 g protein, 16.5 g carbohydrate, 3.5 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 8.5 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 49 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 30%.
Originally published Jan. 29, 2004
Medically updated Jan. 3, 2005.
SOURCES: Journal of the American Dietetic Association, October 1999. International Journal of Eating Disorders, January 2004. Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, December 2003. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, February 2003.