Chocolate

Good or Bad for Your Health?

By Mirella Levin

There are four basic food groups: milk, dark and white chocolate, and chocolate truffles.
Anonymous

This well-loved treat has become one of the most popular and well known foods around the world. However, it is still uncertain as to whether or not it is good or bad for your health. There are also different types; white, milk and dark. Each of these types could potentially affect the body differently. Until recently, eating any of these types was always seen as guilty pleasure, but due to recent investigations, this delicious treat may have a new reputation of actually be good for your health.

Protecting Your Arteries

One of the main ingredients is the cocoa bean which contains some 400 different chemicals. Some of these can have various effects on our bodies and our health. An example of one of these is flavonoids. However, when we refer to these as an ingredient, they are known as flavonols. These can be found in large quantities in cocoa beans and have many positive attributes. They help reduce the risk of blood clots because they prevent the blood platelets from sticking together and thus forming clots. They can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems by preventing fat-like substances from oxidizing and clogging the arteries, which can often lead to a heart attack. Of the three types, the dark variety contains the largest quantities of flavonols.

Rich Mix of Beneficial Chemicals

Other substances in cocoa have been known to help the body process nitric oxide which is important for good blood flow and healthy blood pressure. One of the main benefits we gain from consuming this food is that is helps keep blood pressure down, increases blood flow and it helps promote a healthy heart. Another positive aspect is that it has higher doses of Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC) compared to other foods such as blueberries, prunes etc. The ORAC measurement is a way of comparing how powerful an antioxidant is. Cocoa also contains three types of amino acids; tryptophan, phenylalanine and tyrosine. These can all be found in large quantities. Two of the proteins are involved with the release of chemicals adrenaline and dopamine which is why we feel happy and somewhat energized when we eat this food.

A Natural Analgesic

It has also been shown that chocolate is a natural analgesic. This means that it lessens pain. There has been a long existing rumor that eating it can also help control menstrual cramps by lessening the pain. This has proven to be true for some women and this is because it is an analgesic.

Cholesterol - Getting Rid of the Bad and Increasing the Good

The dark variety is the “healthiest” of the three types as it reduces the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (it is through oxidation that this cholesterol becomes “bad”) and it increases levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. It is suggested that by eating 6.7 grams of dark chocolate a day (or half a bar per week), a person can be at a lower risk of inflammation and cardiovascular disease.

The Right Kind - and In Moderation

In conclusion, this delicious food has some health benefits but this is only if consumed in moderation. If eaten too frequently or in large quantities, it can lead to obesity and other health-related problems. We can argue that it does contain some chemicals that can promote alertness, lessen pain and promote overall well-being. It has also been shown that the dark variety will lead to the most health benefits when compared to the milk and white types. Basically, the type and the quantity consumed determines whether this snack food is good for your health or not.

Sources:

http://www.prohealth.com/library/showarticle.cfm?libid=8326 http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080923104408.htm https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/HEALTHbeat_030309.htm


Editor's Note
Don't forget its the cocoa bean which contains all those feel-good, do-good chemicals. Much of the negative press given to this food comes from the other ingredients - especially sugar, so go for the dark variety with the highest percentage of cacao you can find. This exists now in as much as 95 percent. It is not sweet and only the smallest of squares gives you that feel good feeling which is what our body craves. You might not like it at first - but its an acquired taste and worth persevering...Ed.


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