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Health Benefits of Chocolate
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It's the best medical news in ages.
Studies in two prestigious scientific journals say dark chocolate -- but not white chocolate or milk chocolate -- is good for you.

What is it about dark chocolate?

The answer is plant phenols -- cocoa phenols, to be exact. These compounds are known to lower blood pressure.

Chocolates made in Europe are generally richer in cocoa phenols than those made in the U.S. So if you're going to try this at home, remember: Darker is better.

What are flavonoids?

Flavonoids are naturally-occurring compounds found in plant-based foods recognized as exuding certain health benefits.

Flavonoids are naturally-occurring compounds found in plant-based foods recognized as exuding certain health benefits.

Flavonoids are found in a wide array of foods and beverages, such as cranberries, apples, peanuts, chocolate, onions, tea and red wine. There are more than 4,000 flavonoid compounds; flavonoids are a subgroup of a large class called polyphenols.

Have you had your flavonoids today?

While not a question normally asked at a social gathering, flavonoids have become quite a hot topic in the media and in scientific journals.

Flavonoids provide important protective benefits to plants, such as in repairing damage and shielding from environmental toxins. When we consume plant-based foods rich in flavonoids, it appears that we also benefit from this "antioxidant" power. Antioxidants are believed to help the body's cells resist damage caused by free radicals, formed by normal bodily processes such as breathing or environmental contaminants like cigarette smoke. When the body lacks adequate levels of antioxidants, free radical damage ensues, leading to increases in LDL-cholesterol oxidation and plaque formation on arterial walls.

In addition to their antioxidant capabilities, flavonoids also:

  • Are thought to help reduce platelet activation
  • May affect the relaxation capabilities of blood vessels
  • May positively affect the balance of certain hormone-like compounds called eicosanoids, which are thought to play a role in cardiovascular health.

Dark Chocolate Is Healthy Chocolate
Dark Chocolate Has Health Benefits Not Seen in Other Varieties
By Daniel DeNoon

Dark chocolate -- not white chocolate -- lowers high blood pressure, say Dirk Taubert, MD, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Cologne, Germany. Their report appears in the Aug. 27 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.
But that's no license to go on a chocolate binge. Eating more dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure -- if you've reached a certain age and have mild high blood pressure, say the researchers. But you have to balance the extra calories by eating less of other things.

Antioxidants in Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate -- but not milk chocolate or dark chocolate eaten with milk -- is a potent antioxidant, report Mauro Serafini, PhD, of Italy's National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research in Rome, and colleagues. Their report appears in the Aug. 28 issue of Nature. Antioxidants gobble up free radicals, destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments.

"Our findings indicate that milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate ... and may therefore negate the potential health benefits that can be derived from eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate."

Translation: Say "Dark, please," when ordering at the chocolate counter. Don't even think of washing it down with milk. And if health is your excuse for eating chocolate, remember the word "moderate" as you nibble.


Quotes from Cleveland Clinic Heart Center

It is not secret that fruits, vegetables and grains convey health benefits - we've been told that for years. But did you know that chocolate could result in health benefits, more specifically heart-health benefits?

The Heart-Health Benefits of Chocolate Unveiled
It is not secret that fruits, vegetables and grains convey health benefits - we've been told that for years. But did you know that chocolate could result in health benefits, more specifically heart-health benefits?


Forms of Chocolate

Before you grab a chocolate candy bar or slice of chocolate cake, let's look at what forms of chocolate would be ideal over others:

When cocoa is processed into your favorite chocolate products, it goes through several steps to reduce its naturally pungent taste. Flavonoids (polyphenols) provide this pungent taste. The more chocolate is processed (such as fermentation, alkalizing, roasting), the more flavonoids are lost.

To date, dark chocolate appears to retain the highest level of flavonoids. So your best bet is to choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate.

Some chocolate manufacturers are studying ways to retain the highest level of flavonoids while still providing acceptable taste. Stay tuned for more information in this area.

What about all of the fat in chocolate?

You may be surprised to find out that chocolate isn't as bad as once perceived. The fat in chocolate, from cocoa butter, is comprised of equal amounts of oleic acid (a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil), stearic and palmitic acids. Stearic and palmitic acids are forms of saturated fat. Saturated fats are linked to increases in LDL-cholesterol and risk for heart disease.

Research indicates that stearic acid appears to have a neutral effect on cholesterol, neither raising nor lowering LDL-cholesterol levels. Palmitic acid on the other hand, does affect cholesterol levels but only comprises one-third of the fat calories in chocolate.

This great news does not give us a license to consume as much dark chocolate as we'd like.

First, be cautious as to the type of dark chocolate you choose: chewy caramel-marshmallow-nut-covered dark chocolate is by no means a heart-healthy food option. What wreaks havoc on most chocolate products is the additional fat and calories added from other ingredients.

Second, there is currently no established serving of chocolate to reap the touted cardiovascular benefits. However, what we do know is you no longer need to feel guilty if you enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate once in awhile.

Dark chocolate boosts antioxidant levels
18:45 27 August 03
NewScientist.com news service

"Those volunteers who had dark chocolate had a 20 per cent increase in antioxidants in their plasma," says Alan Crozier, one of the team at the University of Glasgow.
Antioxidants are involved in lowering the levels of free-radicals in the blood. Prolonged and high-level exposure to free radical has been linked to cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
Journal reference: Nature (vol 424, p 1013)

Did You Know Chocolate is Good For You

Researchers have long known that cocoa beans contain a class of chemicals called flavonoids, which are also found in fruits, vegetables, tea, and red wine. Previous studies suggest that flavonoids raise levels of HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and act as potent antioxidants, protecting cells from free-radical damage, which can contribute to aging, heart disease and certain cancers.

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