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No sugar / Nutrition Science

5 REAL Health Truths of Chocolate

 Chocolate. More seductive than David Beckham stripped down to his underwear.

Biting into a rich, chocolatey dessert is a sensual experience. My taste buds are salivating just thinking about it.

There was a time when I’d treat myself to a little chocolate everyday. I was convinced it was a healthy habit. With all the health claims surrounding it, chocolate seems too good to be true. It is touted for high antioxidant levels, supporting the cardiovascular system and the ability to boost mood.

I recently had to ease-up on my love affair with chocolate. Something in it is causing my psoriasis to flare and it induces a terrible bout of heart burn. Now I am questioning all the claims celebrating this magical superfood. What are the real health facts on chocolate?

 

THE CLAIMS:

  1. “Chocolate has more antioxidants than blueberries.”
    Yes, chocolate is high in antioxidants. It contains flavanols, which are a type of flavonoid or antioxidant that repair damage in the body and are shown to improve vascular health.
    Yet, chocolate goes through a fermentation and drying process that significantly lowers it’s flavanols. Then on top of that, any heating from melting causes it to lower even more. By the time a chocolate bar touches your tongue, the antioxidant levels are much lower than when first plucked from the cocoa pod.
    Cranberries, apples, peanuts, onions, tea and other foods also contain flavanols. But unlike chocolate, these foods are eaten with little processing and preserve their naturally occurring levels. 
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  2.  “Chocolate is rich in micronutrients.”
    Yes, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium and a variety of B vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and folate are all found in chocolate.
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  3.  “Chocolate is heart healthy.”
    Studies have shown that the antioxidant flavanols in chocolate have positive influences on cardiovascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot. But as mentioned above, flavanols are present in many other foods without the added sugar of a candy bar.
    .
  4.  “Chocolate helps you lose weight.”
    A fake study circulated the media last year declaring that chocolate helps you lose weight. This was a ploy by a science journalist to demonstrate just how easily bad nutrition science is disseminated across popular news wires.The journalist went to the trouble of designing a flawed study, conducting the experiment, and publishing the findings in a scientific journal. All studies are subject to a peer review before publishing, yet this one slipped through a crack, no reviews completed, and right into the media’s hands. The Huffington Post, NPR, Daily Mail, Mother Nature Network and many others shared the findings that eating a 1.5-ounce bar of dark chocolate each day helped study participants lose weight. That translates to 210 calories and 19 grams of sugar.Chocolate is not correlated with weight lose. It is a calorie-dense food and is best eaten in moderation.
    .
  5.  “Dark chocolate is healthy chocolate.”
    Whether or not chocolate is healthy depends on the processing and the additives. Chocolate can go through rigorous refining before it gets into your hands. What sweeteners, oils or other foods have been added that are competing with it’s healthy compounds?If you’ve ever tasted plain cocoa powder or a cacao nib then you understand how much sugar is needed to turn it into a decadent dessert. Most of us aren’t eating 100% dark chocolate. We go for the sweet stuff. And sugar is sugar.The human body absolutely does not require sugar to meet it’s nutritional needs. It is simply empty calories and actually damages our cells.So if you’re eating chocolate for the health benefits, take a close look at the ingredients. Choose 80% or higher cocoa content and look for brands that make chocolate at low temperatures to maintain it’s naturally occurring nutrients.

Right now, I’m enjoying carob powder as a chocolate alternative. Carob does not have caffeine or theobromine, which may explain my negative reactions to chocolate. My body is overly sensitive to stimulants. Carob has a mellow, chalky taste and naturally contains more sugar than chocolate so it is tasty without any added sweetener.

Go ahead and treat yourself. Chocolate does have healthful properties. Just be aware that the purest form, with minimal processing and little added sugar is the best option.

 

RESOURCES:
Is Chocolate Good for Your Heart? http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/heart/prevention/nutrition/food-choices/benefits-of-chocolate

Why a Journalist Scammed the Media into Spreading Bad Chocolate Science http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/05/28/410313446/why-a-journalist-scammed-the-media-into-spreading-bad-chocolate-science

Why Is Dark Chocolate Good for You? Thank Your Microbes http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-is-dark-chocolate-good-for-you-thank-your-microbes/

The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2841576/

Cocoa has more phenolic phytochemicals and a higher antioxidant capacity than teas and red wine. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14640573

Effect of Fermentation and Drying on Cocoa Polyphenols. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26086521

Carob vs. Chocolate  http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/health-fitness/healthy-eating/carob-vs-chocolate#sthash.KhJQrGQy.dpu

Chocolate: Friend or Foe? http://www.phoenixhelix.com/2013/07/29/chocolate-friend-or-foe/

 

3 Comments 5 REAL Health Truths of Chocolate

  1. Nicholas

    Hi Brittany! Thanks for the interesting article. I was especially chagrined about the journalist’s ability to dupe even the science journal! I knew it was bad but not that bad!

    I recently quit chocolate for similar reasons. It was interfering with my sleep; presumably the theobromine and caffeine. And Even though I ate mostly 75%+ dark chocolate, it was my last sugar addiction to get rid of 🙂

    Reply
    1. brittany

      Hey Nick! I’ve heard others are quilting chocolate for the sleep interference too. Hope you’re getting a full night’s rest now!

      Reply

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