I’m sure you’ve read that the simple pleasure of eating chocolate several times a month can make you healthier and live longer.
Really? Is this too good to be true?
According to a Harvard alumni study, chocolate does stimulate the production of serotonin, and serotonin in turn sets the stage to a feeling of well-being.
Then, a British Medical Journal study noted the same thing in a longevity study in men – they determined that those who ate just a few pieces of chocolate a month lived significantly longer.
The Right Kind of Chocolate
Chocolate was first recorded as a “thing of pleasure’”in 600 B.C., and according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, chocolate is jammed with more antioxidants than most fruits and vegetables by a factor of two.
It’s important to note, though, that this is referring to pure chocolate made from cocoa – it’s NOT referencing manufactured candy bars that drop out of a vending machine. Manufactured candy bars are filled with unnatural chemicals from preservatives and food colorings to cheap fats and junky sweeteners.
Antioxidants, mainly polyphenols, are quickly absorbed into your blood where they have a positive effect on many things:
- cholesterol levels,
- help in preventing cancer and heart disease,
- participate in slowing down the aging process.
The caveat is that chocolate has a different form of the antioxidants than those found in other foods, such as in green tea or red wine, for example. They are larger and more complex molecules that are not usually found in other foods, which is part of the reason that they are so effective as antioxidants.
The antioxidants in chocolate act against the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the bad one) and increase HDL (the good cholesterol). Chocolate’s catechins are important antioxidants, which are four times more potent in chocolate than in green tea. And that’s just in the chocolate – the solids from the cocoa bean are the strongest source of antioxidants.
Did you know that cocoa beans are actually a fruit?
Cocoa Beans and Dark Chocolate
The health effects are the same in both men and women, but they are the highest when the antioxidants are from cocoa powder.
The most effective chocolate is dark chocolate, which is rich in oleic acid, the good fat found in olive and coconut oil. Next in line is milk chocolate, still much higher in antioxidants than many foods tested to date.
White chocolate has none of the benefits of the darker chocolates. Low-quality chocolates usually have cottonseed or soy oil added to them, not to mention other nasty chemicals.
Vitamins in Chocolate
Chocolate contains magnesium, which some researchers believe is the reason people crave chocolate. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, which is a stimulant released in the brain when people fall in love.
So there you go … chocolate stimulates the “feel-good” chemicals serotonin and endorphins.
No wonder chocolate and flowers are traditional gifts for those in love.
Pure dark chocolate eaten once a week, especially those made from cocoa powder, is all you need to reap its health benefits. If you are a smoker or in oxidative stress, chocolate enjoyed more often might benefit your health.
So, what are the negatives?
As with just about everything, more isn’t better, so don’t take advantage of a good thing and overdo eating chocolate just because dark chocolate is healthy for you.
Other negatives about chocolate actually focus on the mass-produced, adulterated, junky chocolate candies.
Not only do candy bars contain excess sugar, food chemicals, and rancid oils, but as a result of processing practices, mass-produced chocolates contain excessive amounts of metals such as lead and cadmium.
So steer clear of the cheaper chocolates and choose organic or high-quality chocolates instead. European chocolates are great products.
Select a high-quality dark or semi-sweet chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa solids, and avoid white chocolate and carob.
So who said life isn’t full of little pleasures?
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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and is educational in nature. The FDA may not have evaluated some of the statements. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please discuss with your own, qualified health care provider before adding supplements or making any changes to your dietary program.
Before taking vitamins, consult your doctor; pre-existing medical conditions or medications you are taking can affect how your body responds to multivitamins.