How can I get the health benefits of chocolate without caffeine?

How can I get the health benefits of chocolate without caffeine?

Studies show that chocolate-or more specifically, cocoa-rich dark chocolate-is loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants. Unfortunately for caffeine-sensitive people, the source of the antioxidants (cocoa) is also the source of the caffeine in chocolate.

Still, chocolate's caffeine content is relatively low. An 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee contains between 95 and 150 milligrams of caffeine. That's nine times more than a 1.5- ounce Hershey's milk chocolate bar, and about three times more than the same amount of dark chocolate.

That means a half-ounce serving of dark chocolate-a piece that's one-third the size of a Hershey's bar-contains the same minimal dose of caffeine (roughly 10 to 12 mg) and antioxidants as a full-size milk chocolate bar, with substantially less sugar and calories, and arguably more chocolatey richness.

You can nibble on that piece of chocolate, or melt it and use it as a dip for a few perfect strawberries. Or simply make yourself a cup of hot cocoa using one tablespoon of plain unsweetened cocoa powder (12 mg of caffeine). Considering all the pleasure and benefits dark chocolate brings, less can definitely be more. Enjoy.

-Debra Boutin, M.S., R.D., professor and dietetic internship director, School of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Wash.