Chocolate, Weight Loss, Healthy, Antioxidants, Flavanoids, Cocoa, Chocolate Good For Your
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Got Chocolate?

by Mitzi Dulan, RD

Dark Chocolate May Be Good for You, But Don’t Overdo It
Want a delicious way to improve your health? Get chocolate. Increasing evidence shows that dark chocolate has great potential for a healthy heart and possible cancer-fighting benefits. Specifically, dark chocolate and minimally processed cocoa powders provide the most antioxidants and have been shown to lower blood pressure and risk for heart disease. Antioxidant-rich plant compounds called flavonols are a specific type of flavonoids found in dark chocolate. Flavonoids in cocoa act similar to taking a low-dose aspirin by making your blood platelets less likely to stick together and clot. Studies have shown that flavonols might also relax blood vessels. Theoretically, this should reduce cardiovascular risk meaning you are less likely to have a heart attack or stroke. The good news doesn’t stop there- chocolate has more flavonoids than many other foods including: red wine, black tea and green tea.

What Kind of Chocolate Should I Buy?
Not all chocolate is created equal for optimal health. To get the benefits of flavonoids you want to eat good dark chocolate which means higher cocoa content. The amounts of flavonoids in chocolate can vary dramatically and with the standard processing for chocolate making you can lose much of the healthy flavonoids. Many companies now include cocoa content on the packaging. A general rule of thumb is to aim for 70 percent or higher cocoa for the most disease-fighting antioxidants. The true test for health is a high flavonoid content as a high cocoa percentage doesn’t always guarantee a flavonoid-rich product but at this point it is the best way to judge from the packaging. Typically, the more bitter the chocolate the more flavonoid-rich cocoa it contains. White chocolate and milk chocolate have very minimal benefits and are often loaded with sugar. Cheaper chocolates usually don’t have high quality cocoa butter and also add in hydrogenated oils, extra sugar, and other unnecessary ingredients to make it taste better. You should avoid chocolate where sugar is listed as the first ingredient.

What About the Fat?
Fat is bad for you, right? As with any food, it is always important to look at the kind of fat. This can get a little confusing as chocolate does contain saturated fat but the type of fat is stearic acid and does not increase blood cholesterol. Studies have indicated that cholesterol is not a concern for dark chocolate or milk chocolate but beware their can be other ingredients added to chocolate which can impact their nutritional value.

How Much Should I Eat?
There is no specific recommendation for chocolate intake as the optimal amount remains unclear. However, this bittersweet news also comes with a dose of moderation attached to it. Consider eating a small square of dark chocolate 3-5 times a week since despite the health benefits it is still high in calories, fat, and sugar. Remember, you can always eat chocolate again tomorrow!

Chocolate or Sex?
Besides the indulging taste many women have also reported feeling a great sense of pleasure when eating chocolate. Chocolate can be mood enhancing because it triggers the release of endorphins which affect the pleasure center in the brain. Since chocolate can lead to these “feel good” emotions by making your heart pound or give you a rush and feelings of excitement it can definitely be good for your psychological well-being.  Some surveys have shown that many women prefer chocolate to sex. A group of Italian researchers indicated women eating chocolate on a regular basis have a better sex life than those who avoid the treat. In the study, those eating the sweetness from chocolate had the highest levels of desire, arousal, and satisfaction from sex. A good balance would be to indulge in a small piece of dark chocolate and then have sex which will also benefit you by burning some calories!

Keep Eating Juicy Fruits and Your Veggies
All the good news about chocolate doesn’t mean you should skimp on your fruits and vegetables? Fruits and vegetables are loaded with flavonoids and provide powerful phytochemicals punch with only 25-80 calories. They are low in calories and fat, but very nutrient-rich.

Dark Chocolate vs Highly Processed Chocolate

Take a look at the nutrient content of 35 grams of a 70 percent-cocoa dark chocolate:

  • Calories- 190
  • Fat- 14 grams
  • Saturated fat- 7 grams
  • Sugar- 8 grams
  • Protein- 5 grams
  • Fiber- 5 grams

Unfortunately, many commercial chocolate products are not made with flavonoid-rich dark chocolate- instead they are often made with milk chocolate and lots of added sugar. Here’s a look at the nutrient content of 35 grams of M & M’s® Milk Chocolate Candies:

  • Calories- 145
  • Fat- 6 grams
  • Saturated fat- 4 grams
  • Sugar- 19 grams
  • Protein- 1 gram
  • Fiber- 0 grams

The Bottom Line
While it is definitely sweet news to know that chocolate has so many potential benefits from libido to your heart it doesn’t give you a free pass to overindulge. Choose flavonoid-rich dark chocolate or minimally processed cocoa. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein should be the foundation of your diet but don’t feel guilty about enjoying a little chocolate. About an ounce 3-5 days per week is fine.



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