Do you find yourself sneaking a chocolate bar in between meals? Do you love chocolate chips or shavings added to your favorite foods or drinks? Are you in the habit of choosing chocolate pie, cookies, or ice cream for dessert? You are not alone. Some researchers are discovering that a small daily dose of chocolate help us be healthier, happier and more physically fit. Is it true that chocolate can be beneficial to our health? Find out more. Continue reading
Is Chocolate Beneficial to Me?
Studies have shown that dark chocolate can be beneficial to our health. This is not the creamy milk chocolate commonly found in stores and in most commercial candy bars. Healthy, dark chocolate is nearly black in color, does not have added sugar, and is bitter (for most sweet-seeking eaters) to taste. It’s no secret that chocolate has lots of fat in it and calories and so does dark chocolate. But first let’s look at it’s good qualities.
The Theobroma cacao also known as the cacao tree , or cocoa tree, is a small evergreen tree in the family Malvaceae. It is native to the deep tropical region of America. Cocoa powder and chocolate are made from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree. Cocoa has long been known for it’s medicinal properties. It was popular among Aztec and Mayan people. The oldest known cultivation and use of cacao dates from about 1100 to 1400 BC. Archaeologists reported finding evidence of Cacao beans being used for food, drink, and medicinal purposes for thousands of years.
What is the healthy ingredient in dark chocolate?
The Europeans added sugar to the cocoa to create the sweetened chocolate that we know today. Dark chocolate contains lots of polyphenols, particularly flavanols, high in caffeine, and antioxidants. Current research studies have shown flavanols to be effective in the following ways:
- lowering blood pressure
- lowering cholesterol
- lifting the mood, curbing depression
- providing anti-aging effects
- serving as a natural stimulant
In the past the cocoa bean has been used as an elixir in the following ways:
- to gain weight
- to stimulate those who are exhausted or feeble
- to improve digestion and elimination
- to stimulate kidneys
- to improve bowel function.
- to reduce or alleviate effects of anemia
- to increase appetite
- to eliminate mental fatigue
- to increase breast milk production
- to aid in the symptoms and discomfort of influenza, tuberculosis fever, gout, kidney stones
- to increase sexual drive
Is there anything unhealthy about dark chocolate?
Yes, chocolate is still high in fat and calories Let’s first take a look at the fat. First of all it’s important to note that there are good fats and bad fats. Good fats are monounsaturated fats. Not so good fats are saturated fats. Saturated fats, like full-fat dairy products and fatty animal proteins, have been shown in past research studies to increase risks of heart disease, high cholesterol and some cancers, including colon cancer. There is currently a controversy about saturated fats, with recent research contradicting past studies. More study may be needed.
When choosing fats, a safe choice is to pick unsaturated fat over saturated or trans fat. Really bad fats are trans fats. Fried foods, packaged cookies, chips, candy and granola bars, and cooking oils, contain trans fats which can increase bad cholesterol and inflammation, and decrease good cholesterol in the body.
It’s a mixed issue with chocolate.
Monounsaturated fats and Omega 3 fatty acids are good fats and helpful to us. Cocoa butter is mostly monounsaturated and saturated fats, with less polyunsaturated fats. So about one-third of the fat in dark chocolate can be potentially bad for us. The good fats in dark chocolate are Oleic Acid and Stearic acid. Oleic Acid is a healthy monounsaturated fat. Stearic acid is a saturated fat, but it is neutral to cholesterol. That is good.
Palmitic acid is also in dark chocolate. Palmitic acid is the bad fat. It raises cholesterol and heart disease risk. So that fact is that one-third of the fat is not so good saturated fat, and about two-thirds of the fat is good or neutral saturated fat and good monounsaturated fat in dark chocolate.
Caffeine is found in the coffee bean and cocoa bean. Dark chocolate has more caffeine than milk chocolate, because it is more pure, and with less added ingredients. It is generally accepted that caffeine consumption that is kept under 200 mg per day does not result in illness However, intake of caffeine over 200 mg can create digestive problems. Pregnant women should not use high levels of caffeine. Difficulties in conceiving have been linked to regularly taking in 1,000 mg of caffeine per day. Other symptoms such as problems sleeping, nervousness, and rapid heart beat can be associated with high levels of caffeine. Caffeine in high doses has been known to trigger migraine headaches, although when taken in small amounts, it can be used to stop or reduce the effects of a painful migraine and also can be beneficial and helpful in stopping an asthma attack when an inhaler is not available.
Surprise! Recent studies are showing chocolate can actually HELP tooth decay! Researchers at Osaka University in Japan found that parts of the cocoa bean, the main ingredient of chocolate, stop mouth bacteria and tooth decay. The milk in the milk chocolate helps to halt plaque. The cocoa bean husk has an anti-bacterial effect on the mouth. It can fight effectively against dental plaque and other damaging agents.
What is the bottom line?
The bottom line is that dark chocolate can be beneficial if eaten in small quantities. Never overindulge and remember to care for yourself. Exercise, eat a well balanced diet, do things that make you happy, be persistent with achieving your goals, and get plenty of sleep. When chocolate is eaten in excess, it can raise cholesterol, increase weight, increase risk of heart failure and heart disease, and trigger anxiety, stress, headache, nervousness, and cause rapid heart beat.
Use the cocoa bean and chocolate wisely and draw upon the wisdom of our ancestors.
This article is written by Jean Voice Dart, M.S. Special Education from Illinois State University. Jean is a published author and has written hundreds of health articles as well as hosting a local television program, “Making Miracles Happen.” She is a Registered Music Therapist, Sound Therapist, and Master Level Energetic Teacher, and is the Executive Director, founder and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com. All photos are copyright free from www.pixabay.com unless otherwise noted.
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