Friday, March 4, 2016

Health Benefits of Chocolate

I am sure many of you reading this post have heard about the health benefits of chocolate. Does this  mean you have free reign to eat as much as you want? Let's slow the wagon down for just a second.

I'll start off by saying that while chocolate can be good because of the antioxidant content, I wouldn't go as far as saying it is "healthy." Depending on the type of chocolate you get, you are still looking at something with a higher content of calories, fat, and sugar. Also, I would much rather someone aim for getting their antioxidants from berries (that have fiber and other nutrients) than a piece of chocolate.

Indulging in the occasional piece of dark chocolate can definitely be something that fits into your diet; however, there are some tips for choosing the right kind of chocolate to reap the benefits. Let's break down the research to see what benefits (besides good taste) chocolate has to offer.

Dark chocolate can decrease your risk of stroke, lower the "bad" LDL cholesterol, and decrease your risk of heart disease. Some studies have been showing that continued consumption of chocolate decreased the risk for coronary heart disease and stroke. There are also some suggestions that cocoa flavanols may reduce some measure of age-related cognitive decline. Most of these health benefits can be attributed to the flavonoids, which help repair damage from environmental toxins and antioxidants, which help to decrease inflammation and fight free radicals in the body. The antioxidants may also help to lower blood pressure. These antioxidants and flavonoids can also be found in fruits and vegetables, with high concentrations in apples, cranberries, and onions. Tea and red wine also contain flavonoids.

In terms of which chocolate is better, you want to aim for a minimum of 60-70% dark chocolate. One ounce of dark chocolate with 60-69% pure cocoa contains a good source of manganese, copper, and magnesium. There are also trace amounts of phosphorus, potassium, zinc, selenium, calcium, and B vitamins. There is no recommendation for the amount of chocolate per day; however, keep the maximum to 1-ounce per day to avoid spiking the calories and saturated fat. If you are wondering about white chocolate, it contains zero cocoa solids and cocoa powder (ground cocoa solids), so it really isn't considered chocolate at all. Basically, it is just a combination of sugar, cocoa, butter, milk and soy lecithin. This pales in comparison to dark chocolate which is at least 35% chocolate liquor (cocoa solids + cocoa butter).

While chocolate has been showing some promising health benefits in the research, it is important to remember that the type and quantity does matter. So, stick with at least 60-70% dark chocolate and limit yourself to 1-ounce per day. If you don't think that you can stick with a small amount, aim instead for getting your antioxidants and flavonoids from fruits and veggies!


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