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Home > Chocopedia > Chocolate & Health



Is Chocolate good for you?

.

Yes! The health benefits of chocolate are many, assuming we are talking about chocolate in its purest form – as close to the bean as you can get. If you want to be told that Milky Way chocolate is good for you, we are afraid you are going to be disappointed.

 

The key to get a good chocolate for you is to find a chocolate with high cocoa content. The higher the cocoa content, the less room there is for sugar, lecithin, vanilla, milk, and other ingredients that makes chocolate more of a candy.

 

So what are actually the amazing health benefits of chocolate? Most notably, chocolate contains high antioxidant. Antioxidants help rid the body of free radicals -bad molecules which cause aging and disease. Antioxidants bond to free radicals and whisk them from your body through digestion and other means.

 

Antioxidant rich-diets have been linked to lowered risk of heart attacks, stroke, cardiovascular disease, cancer, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, arthritis, asthma and more.

 

People often said that red wine, green tea, pomegranate and blueberries contain the most antioxidants. Well, believe it or not, dark chocolate belongs to that category. In fact, dark chocolate -in its purest form, is the champion of antioxidant. Scientist published a chart of antioxidant foods measured in ORACs (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity Units). For every 100 grams, dark chocolate has 13,120 ORACs, and blueberry have only 2,400.

 

So chocolate with high cocoa content has the potential to:

• Make someone’s life longer

• Reduce the risk of getting heart disease and cancer

• Prevent early aging that is caused by pollution and radiation

• Lower the blood pressure

• Make people feel calm and promote of happy feelings and;

• Recent research even shows that chocolate may also have benefits for treating stroke.

 

So it stands to reason that if chocolate is full of antioxidants, it is actually good for you.

 

However, many people still avoid eating chocolate because chocolate still contains fat, sugar and caffeine. In order to know further about the effects of those ingredients to our body and to understand more of chocolate great potentials for health, below is some basic information about chocolate that will be good for us to know.

 

Below is the main chemical elements which is contained inside chocolate:

1. Stearic acid and palmitic acid

2. Oleic acid and linoleic acid

3. Theobromine

4. Polyphenol

5. Phenyletylamine

6. Catechin

 

Now the ultimate question is: what are those elements actually contri bute or linked to our body and health?

 

The Positive Element of Chocolate

 

Based on the composition, it shows that chocolate contains polyphenol. Beneficial thing about polyphenol is that this element acts as great antioxidant. One of the reasons why eating dark chocolate in moderation can be good for health is because several medical studies show that dark (on its purest) chocolate has higher antioxidant level than green tea and red wine. Antioxidant is good for cancer prevention, reducing the risk of heart disease, protecting cells and body chemicals against damaging free radicals.

 

So, how the polyphenol can work as antioxidant?

 

As it was mentioned before, chocolate eventually contains polyphenol and dark chocolate on its “purest form” even contains more of higher level polyphenol. This phenol compound can reduce the risk of getting heart disease by preventing oxidation and deposition of fatty compounds inside the blood in the blood vessels and break the low density lipoprotein lipid (bad fat). This phenol is also mostly found in red wine which is already popular as a good drink for heart’s health.

 

Chocolate has also the ability to slow down oxidation of cholesterol LDL (bad cholesterol) and improve the immune function, thus preventing the risk of coronary heart disease and cancer.

 

Another interesting epidemiological study is a research that conducted by Harvard University students who enrolled between the years 1916-1950. By using a food frequency questionnaire, they collected information about the eating habits of candy or chocolate of Harvard University students. By controlling their smoking and eating habits and their physical activity, it was found that those who like to eat sweets or chocolates live one year longer than those who were not eating. It was concluded that apparently the contained phenol antioxidants in chocolate is the reason why they can live longer.

 

What about the fat in chocolate?

 

It is true that most of chocolate components are fat especially saturated fat. However, some researches show that the combination effect that is given by all kinds of fat, which is contained in the based ingredients of chocolate, is actually has given a neutral effect for one’s lipid profile.

 

Fat in chocolate, often called cocoa butter, is mostly composed of saturated fat (60%), especially stearic. But the chocolate fat is a vegetable fat that does not contain cholesterol at all. The high content of stearic inside chocolate is supposedly the reason why chocolate’s fat is not as bad as animal’s fat. Furthermore, based on the research, it has been long known that stearic acid is a neutral fat that will not trigger blood cholesterol. Why? It is because stearic is actually digested slowly and also absorbed less by our body. One third of fat that is found in chocolate is oleic acid which is an unsaturated fatty acid. This oleic acid is also dominantly found in olive oil. An epidemiological study on Mediterranean population, that consumed a lot of oleic acid from olive oil, has also shown the positive oleic effect for the heart’s health.

 

What about the sugar?

 

Well, sugar is not good. Nothing good about it, really. But keep in mind that a dark chocolate with high cacao content might have 10 to 15 grams of sugar, which is still less that the 22 grams in your glass of orange juice, the 29 grams in your cup of yogurt, and the 34 grams in your glass of cranberry juice, all of which maybe considered “good” for you. So keep your eye on the labels, too.

 

What about the caffeine in chocolate?

 

An average chocolate bar contains about 27 mg, about half what you would find in a cola and a third what you would find in a cup of coffee. Besides which, studies have shown that having some, but less that 200 mg of caffeine a day, might actually be good for you.

 

Other interesting element inside chocolate is its alkaloids component called theobromine. This component is included in the methylxanthine group, such as caffeine. However, the effect is very different between theobromine and caffeine. Theobromine has mild characteristic and give a slow stimulant effect. It is different with caffeine that has strong characteristic and can give a very fast stimulant effect. Theobromine, a stimulant that is said to make a lasting improvement on the mood. Its presence is one of the causes for chocolate’s mood-elevating effect. It helps to release happy hormone.

 

After knowing the basic knowledge of chocolate, you may realize that there is actually no bad reasons why we should not eat chocolate. The bottom line is that indulging in a proper amount of dark chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth while treating your body to the many health benefits of chocolate. So next time you are craving dessert, reach for the dark chocolate, and hold the guilt.

 

In the end, chocolate is still chocolate…

Our mouth-watering soulmate,

It is so delicious and temptatious,

Who can resist it! Yumm…

 

Sources

Noer, Hendry, ‘Coklat dan Kesehatan’, Food Review Indonesia, March 2006, p. 25-26.

Multiple sources were used in developing this link,

including http://coklatchocolate.blogspot.com/2008/02/khasiatmanfaat-coklat.html and other online resources.

All credits remain with their respective owners although the information has been modified.