Loving the BITE: High Polyphenol Dark Chocolate


I must have missed the day of dietitian-school when we gave up our sweet tooth (teeth) and pledged to forever consider an apple as a decadent dessert.   Every day, I have a small treat.  And, I recommend that most of my clients do as well.  A cyclist’s gotta eat, right?  But take note, this is a small treat.

If you’ll give it a try, you may just find that High Polyphenol dark chocolate, with 70% or more cocoa makes a satisfying and (even) nutritious dessert.  And before you know it, you’ll feel exceptionally sophisticated and polished compared to all those cheap-milk-chocolate-eating chronically-inflamed Neanderthals around you…

Recipe(s) of the week:  High Polyphenol Dark Chocolate

3 Ways for a Quick Dessert!

1. Chocolate “Covered” Cherries

Thaw 1 cup frozen cherries in the microwave.  Add ½ oz 70%+ cocoa dark chocolate (chopped into small pieces).  Return to microwave and heat until chocolate is soft or melted.  Devour.

2.  Almond Joy-ish Treat:

Top ½ ounce 70%+ cocoa dark chocolate with ½ Tbsp semi-hard coconut oil (may have to heat slightly to soften first) and an almond.  Enjoy.

3.  Dark Chocolate Almond Cookies:


  • 2 ½ cups blanched almond flour
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 tablespoons organic butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons organic coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
  • 6 Tbsp honey
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips, 70%+ cocoa


Allow almond flour, which should be refrigerated, to warm to room temperature.  Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir together wet ingredients in a smaller bowl.  Mix wet ingredients into dry.  Form 1″ balls and press onto a parchment lined or oiled baking sheet.

Bake at 350° for 7-10 minutes

Cool and serve (Make 24 cookies)


Mmmmm, Chocolate.  Just a few years ago, I don’t think I would have been able to look someone in the eye and honestly say that I enjoyed dark chocolate.  But, now, I absolutely can and do.  If you’ve never given it a chance, you may be surprised that your taste buds can “change” to regard dark chocolate as rich and delicious and milk chocolate as too-sugary and sweet.  And, I’m talking very-dark chocolate with 70% or more cocoa.  It goes way beyond great taste…it is a functional food, with polyphenols high enough to rival fruits, vegetables and wine.

Here’s How High Polyphenol Dark Chocolate Promote Health and Reduce Risk of Disease:

Dark chocolate (70%+ cocoa) contains dietary polyphenols.  These antioxidants reduce inflammation and make cells more sensitive to insulin.  Both of these factors are super-important to the athlete.

First, inflammation is an issue for cellular health, whole body health, and recovery.  When you think of inflamed cells, think of angry, out-of-control, destructive cells that simply do not function right.  When we eat foods and nutrients that are anti-inflammatory, they can calm these cells and create a balance in our bodies that responds better to all the chemical reactions and toxins we throw at it.  As hard-breathing cyclists, we throw a lot of chemical reactions at our cells.  What’s more, by reducing cellular inflammation you may reduce fat storage, sluggish metabolisms, fatigue, chronic disease, and slow recovery.

Then, there’s the whole insulin-sensitivity issue. The more sensitive cells are to insulin, the healthier they are and less likely to store fat.  They “use” carbs better, when you need energy, and replenish glycogen stores more efficiently for that upcoming ride…yes, please.  When cells are resistant to insulin, they don’t respond well to blood sugar.  This promotes a whole host of problems, including out-of-control blood sugars, disease, and more insulin resistance.

Due to reduced inflammation and improved insulin-sensitivity, high polyphenol foods can improve Cardiovascular Markers such as LDL cholesterol, blood sugars, chronic inflammatory conditions, and even Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  And, in addition to polyphenols, these high cocoa treats have other great nutrients to offer.  Coconut oil, almond flour, and cherries only add fuel to the fire of anti-inflammatory health.

Still, don’t go overboard.  Dark chocolate calories can still add up – keep it to 1 oz. or less for a once-a-day treat.  If Lance couldn’t eat all he wanted to after all his riding, we surely can’t either (“Pro cyclists literally starve themselves. If you want to be the best, that’s what you do.  That’s what I did. I cannot tell you how many nights you just go to bed hungry.” –Lance Armstrong) – Yikes.

When choosing dark chocolate, make sure you see a percentage stated at 70% cocoa or higher. If it’s not on the label, it’s likely much lower.  The names “dark chocolate” and “semi-sweet” chocolate only indicate a minimum cocoa level of 35%.  So, shop around and look for the percentage.

If you don’t think you like dark chocolate, and prefer milk chocolate, keep giving it a chance…you may “reset” your taste buds and sooner or later prefer the dark!   If you’re already on board with High-Polyphenol Dark Chocolate, let us know how you enjoy it, and what are your favorite brands?

Fuel the Ride.  Nourish the Body.

Enjoy Your Ride


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5 Responses to “ Loving the BITE: High Polyphenol Dark Chocolate ”

  1. ameliaamy on June 10, 2013 at 9:19 am

    Hi Kelli,
    Should I flatten the cookie balls before baking, or will they flatten and spread on their own?

  2. Heather Nielson on April 7, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    I have a small piece of dark chocolate everyday 😀

  3. Darryl on April 7, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    We had the following comment on Twitter today, and wanted to provide a reply to it so here is what Kelli has to say.

    @Digsby: @lovingthebike 2008 study found 60% to 90% of the antioxidants in chocolate are destroyed when alkalized. Make sure to get the right stuff!


    Thanks for the tweet – this is a good point. However, when scored using the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) system, which is generally the accepted scoring tool for antioxidant levels, all natural raw cocoa has a score of over 80,000 units. Alkalized (or “Dutched” or “Dutch-processed”) cocoa plummets to just over 40,000 units. This seems bad until you compare it to most fruits and vegetables, which score between 500 and 900. Of course, there are some higher ones, such as blueberries, which have a score of ~6500 for 100 grams. So, with a dark chocolate bar that is 80% cocoa, even if it is alkalized, you’ll get a lot of antioxidants – and especially much more than other dessert foods. To compare calories to calories, 100 calories of blueberries may yield ~10,000 units ORAC, and 100 calories of a 80% dark chocolate bar, alkalized, may yield between 10,000-11,000 units ORAC – still pretty good. Anytime you can find it, it’s best to get natural non-alkalized dark chocolate that is cold-processed. However, not many companies are completely forth coming with this information. My advice is to choose high % cocoa bars that are organic, and when possible, non-alkalized. Thanks again!

  4. Shebicycles on April 7, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Mmmm mmmm mmm … chocolate! I have long-standing and highly committed relationship with the dark side – and yes, only a little at a time. My cacao number is 85% (my favorite). When I first began sampling and collecting fine dark chocolate, and began learning about cacao – how/where it’s grown, cultivated, harvested – it quickly became apparent that I needed to support organically-grown, fair-trade and ecologically responsible suppliers. My two personal favorites are Green & Black and Dagoba. Dagoba also offers several high-cacao bars with “additions” – like their Superfruit 74% cacao bar, packed with antioxidants, including acai, currents and Goji berries. Green & Black’s 85% bar is my favorite “pure” choice.

    Bottom line: if you’re going to do chocolate – do it well and do it responsibly; for me, organic and fair-trade is the only way to go.

    • Kelli on April 7, 2011 at 3:38 pm

      Awesome – thanks for the comments, and I whole-heartedly agree. It’s fun to find the % and brand that you agree with and love, as there’s a huge difference in taste among different brands. Kelli


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Sugar Alternatives for Energy and Hydration

Question: I am using the homebrew sugar formulations (sometimes added to green tea).  I am also trying to wean myself off 1/2 dose adrenalean “lip tonic delivery system” (biorhythm brand- caffeine, hoodia g, synephrine, yohimbe) capsule for energy.

My question is other than juice, can you suggest modifications in lieu of table sugar for energy and hydration.


Both raw/organic honey or agave can work great in the homebrew (substitute in the same quantities for the sugar, or to taste), but you do have to shake well in order to make sure they don’t settle out.  Have you tried either of these?  Also, make sure to use at least the minimum amount of salt recommended in the homebrew as the temps rise, you need the sodium replacement if you’re sweating.

Sports Drink Homebrew

Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go to www.apexnutritionllc.com.

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