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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Should you indulge in chocolate for your health?

Who doesn’t love chocolate, especially dark chocolate?  Valentine’s Day just passed and many women got a box of chocolates from their special someone.  I was more than pleasantly pleased to see a box of chocolates waiting for me on Valentine’s Day morning.  So what do nutritionists say about chocolate?  Should you feel guilty with every piece from your assorted chocolate box?  Or can you say to yourself, why feel guilty, chocolate has some health benefits?  Can chocolate really be good for your health?  Jennifer Motl recently wrote about chocolate and had many encouraging things to say. 

  • Heart Disease and Chocolate:   Yes, chocolate does have some health benefits.  Dark chocolate has been shown to lower one’s risk of heart disease and stroke. What is in dark chocolate that has healthy benefits?   One is flavanols and a second are antioxidants.  Chocolate is rich in both and both help protect not only our hearts but also our blood vessels.   Moreover, chocolate is rich in the mineral magnesium.  This mineral helps keep our heart healthy and also helps the hormone insulin which controls how much sugar is in our blood.  
  • Weight and chocolate:  Even more surprisingly, those who eat chocolate are less likely to become obese.  How could that be?  A study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that women who ate chocolate can lose weight, but it is small amounts of chocolate, not eating a pound of chocolate at a time. What chocolate did these women add to their diet?  Diet hot chocolate (which actually tastes really good) and 2 snacks of 50% chocolate candy.  But the chocolate snacks added only 90 calories to their diet so were not large portions of chocolate.   The Cleveland Clinic recommends moderate portions of chocolate, about 1 ounce, a few times a week. 
  •  How much chocolate?  So how much chocolate should you eat and how often.  Well many of us will be pleased with the recommendations of some Australian researchers which recommend we eat chocolate daily, yes, daily for our health.  Who can argue with that recommendation?  In another study by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, participants who ate chocolate more than 5 times a week had a 57% lower risk of heart disease.  Another study found those who ate chocolate had more good HDL cholesterol and a lower risk of metabolic syndrome than those who hated chocolate.  

So what kind of chocolate is the best for one’s health?  Look for dark chocolate containing at least 60% cocoa and only 40% sugar and other ingredients.  

(For more information see Jennifer Motl’s article, “Indulge in Chocolate for Health's Sake.”   And “Is Chocolate Good for Your Heart?”)

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