Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

May 1, 2010

Good for You Chocolates?

So you have heard that chocolates are not as bad for you as claimed in the past.  Yes, there are potential health benefits from chocolates. Hold on before you run out to get a couple of pounds, let’s dig a little deeper.

  • The research studies talked about flavonoids (a type of antioxidant) found in cocoa and chocolate to be the beneficial component. They may raise your HDL (good cholesterol) and also lower your bad cholesterol (LDL). Other claims are that eating dark chocolate (50 g /day) may even help lower your blood pressure, improve blood flow and decrease risk of heart disease.
  • Cholcolates do have a fair amount of potassium, magnesium and vitamins  including B1, B2, D, and E. The quality and quantity of antioxidants in chocolate are high when compared to other high-antioxidant foods. The ranking order is cocoa powder, dark chocolate then milk chocolate having the least amount of antioxidant.  Some claims that dark chocolate has 8 times higher antioxidants than strawberries.
  • All sound good to be true?  There is always a catch. The chocolates they are talking about are mainly chocolate cocoa powder and dark chocolates, not the yummy kind that comes in a pretty gift box or vending machines. These beneficial components are sensitive to the processing method. The type of chocolates available to the public are too processed or if not they are too costly. The chocolates we can get off the shelf usually have too much sugar, fat added and not enough of the naturally occurring beneficial substances.

Don’t eat chocolate just for the flavonoids. Flavonoids are found in
a variety of plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains.
Some good antioxidant foods and beverages are berries, apples, peanuts, green tea and red wine.

The chocolate makers are working on improving their processing methods to preserve the healthful ingredients while keeping it yummy for us. In the mean time eating chocolate in moderation in quantity and frequency is the answer. Depends on the end product a serving (one small bar, or 1 ounce (28 grams) of chocolate has about 250 calories.  Choose the less fat, and calories chocolates varieties.  Don’t think that chewy caramel-marshmallow-nut-covered dark chocolate is one of the heart healthy foods. Opt for the darker, higher % cocoa chocolates when possible and enjoy!

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