Chocolate—The Fourth Food Group

While chocolate is not really addictive, most of us would agree that it is one of the best treats to indulge in. Why is it so pleasing? Interestingly, one of the main reasons chocolate has such universal appeal has to do with its texture, not its flavor.

Chocolate's fat molecules have a unique melting point just below body temperature. This gives chocolate its creamy texture and "melt in your mouth" feel.

Chocolate is high in flavonoids, which are a kind of antioxidant. Dark chocolate and cocoa powder have more antioxidants than other chocolate. You also can get flavonoids from fruits and veggies—usually accompanied by a lot fewer calories than in chocolate.

So if you are eating chocolate for your health (what a good excuse!), use dark chocolate, which is usually lower in sugar, or better still, use cocoa powder.

By the way, most chocolate recipes don't need salt, which can contribute to heart and kidney problems. If your favorite chocolate recipe calls for salt, try leaving it out and instead adding a teaspoon of vanilla, a healthier flavor enhancer.

Chocolate-covered candied orange peel
3 navel oranges
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups sugar
1½ cups water
Granulated sugar, for coating
1½ cups chopped semisweet chocolate

Cut ¾-inch-wide strips of peel from oranges. Scrape off as much of the white membrane as possible. Put orange peel strips into a pan with baking soda and cover with water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Drain, rinse and simmer in fresh water for another 10 minutes. In a second pan, bring sugar and 1½ cups water to boil. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Let boil 5 minutes. Add orange peel, simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from syrup. (Save the syrup; it is great drizzled over pancakes, toast or ice cream). Dry orange peel for 20 minutes on a baking sheet in an oven heated to 300 degrees, checking to be sure it does not burn. Remove, roll in granulated sugar and allow to cool. Melt chocolate in double boiler or microwave on medium heat. Dip orange peels in chocolate and let stand on wire rack. Keep in airtight container.

Nutritional information (per 2-ounce serving):
Calories: 149, Carbohydrates: 31 grams, Protein: 1 gram, Sodium: 45 milligrams

Molten chocolate cakes
2 tablespoons butter, for greasing tin
2 teaspoons sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch nutmeg
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup all-purpose flour
1¼ cups powdered sugar
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin tin, then sprinkle with granulated sugar. In a saucepan or double boiler, combine the butter, cinnamon, cayenne, nutmeg and chocolate over low heat. Stir frequently until melted and smooth. Let cool slightly. In large bowl, whisk together flour, powdered sugar, eggs and yolks, vanilla and almond extract until creamy. Add melted chocolate to batter and fold in. Fill prepared tin about two-thirds full for each cake. Bake until tops are stiff and cracked and the edges darken, 12 to 14 minutes. Cool about 5 minutes. Loosen edges of cakes, then invert onto plates while warm. These freeze well, if you want to save them for a rainy day! Serves 12.

Nutritional information (per serving):
Calories: 268, Carbohydrates: 28 grams, Protein: 4 grams, Sodium: 22 milligrams

The information in this column is meant for people who want to keep their kidneys healthy and blood pressure down by following a low-sodium diet. In most cases, except for dialysis patients, a diet high in potassium is thought to help lower high blood pressure. These recipes are not intended for people on dialysis without the supervision of a registered dietitian.


Katy Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. The 2014 recipient of National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition’s Susan Knapp Excellence in Education Award, she has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. See more of her recipes at www.nwkidney.org.