For a long time, we were told that chocolate was bad for us, but in recent times, we have learned that dark chocolate may be good for us. That is because chocolate that is made from at least 70% cocoa solids contain flavonoids (antioxidants) and essential trace minerals and vitamins. The higher the percentage of cocoa solids, the darker the chocolate and the more flavonoids it has. Flavonoids are also found in milk chocolate, but not in such concentrated levels. Studies have also shown that milk prevents the body from absorbing much of the "good stuff" found in chocolate, so as much as I would like to tell you milk chocolate is healthy too, it just is not so. It also means that to get the goodness out of dark chocolate, it is best to NOT eat it with a glass of milk. This is because milk binds to the antioxidants and therefore prevents them from binding to the cells in our bodies. Also, when adding chocolate to our diet, be sure to subtract an equal number of calories elsewhere in your diet, preferably by eliminating some other sweet and not a healthy food, like fruits or vegetables.
So now you are asking yourself, how exactly does chocolate help me? Here are some of the ways:
- Flavonoids raise the levels of HDL (good) cholesterol in the blood and help lower the LDL(Bad) cholesterol.
- Since flavonoids are antioxidants, they also help protect our bodies from certain cancers.
- Flavonoids help to improve vascular walls and the function of blood vessels. This can help reduce the formation of blood clots which will reduce the risk of stroke.
- Cocoa is the highest natural source of magnesium. Magnesium helps to protect the body from hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, joint problems and pre-menstrual tension. Dark chocolate also contains iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and the vitamins A. B1, C, D, and E.
- Chocolate contains small amounts of phenylethylamine (PEA), a mild mood improving chemical. It is naturally produced by the brain when responding to feelings such as joy and love. Chocolate has also been found to increase seratonin and endorphin levels in the brain as well.
So go ahead and indulge in a bit of dark chocolate, but as with everything, remember moderation is the key to living healthy.
(As of 5/6/2010- The CocoaPro page is currently under renovation and is inaccessible)