Friday, May 27, 2011
Eating small amounts of dark chocolate can be beneficial to your health.
It may reduce blood pressure and other cardiovascular risks:
It may help prevent strokes:
It may improve visual and cognitive function:
It may improve mood (did we really need science to tell us that?):
This study showed an association between increased depression ratings with chocolate consumption (note the author's study limitations):
Here is a recent article examining the how cocoa polyphenols are used by the body and questions the health benefits:
“There is recent epidemiological evidence that chocolate consumption may improve vascular health. .. However, human bioavailability studies suggest that the plasma concentrations of cocoa polyphenols are manifold lower than those concentrations used in cultured cells in vitro. The experimental evidence for beneficial vascular effects of chocolate in human interventions studies is yet not fully convincing. Some human intervention studies on chocolate and its polyphenols lack a stringent study design. They are sometimes underpowered and not always placebo controlled. Dietary chocolate intake in many of these human studies was up to 100 g per day. Since chocolate is a rich source of sugar and saturated fat, it is questionable whether chocolate could be recommended as part of a nutrition strategy to promote vascular health.”
A German study showed positive health benefits with 6g of dark chocolate (dark typically implies a chocolate bar with at least 70% cocoa) a day.
- beneficial flavanoids (polyphenols) can also be found in healthier foods such as fruits and vegetables (apples, beans, onions, grape juice...).
- you can't know the flavanoid content in chocolate :
“According to scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, the percentage of cocoa listed on a label is not a dependable indicator of flavonoid content. A bar that is, for example, 65 per cent cocoa may not be better than one that is 55 per cent.
This is because a lot depends on the type of cocoa beans used and how they have been processed. The higher the temperature at which the beans are roasted and the longer they are fermented, the fewer heart-healthy flavonoids survive, and this is not mentioned on the pack. Even if flavonoid content is given, scientists claim that results can vary from lab to lab.
That said, the bottom line is that you are likely to get more flavonoids in a dark chocolate that lists cocoa beans, cacao, chocolate liquor or cocoa mass on its ingredient list. Milk chocolate tends to have very few flavonoids and white chocolate none. “
- choose dark chocolate to avoid excess sugar (the darker the chocolate the less sugar)
- beware of chocolates labelled 'dark' that do not have the cocoa content printed on the label as these are likely to be 'dark flavoured' chocolates that are treated with alkali.
try to find cocoa that has been the least processed (maybe some organic cocoa powders?)
In summary, a small amount of flavanoid-rich dark chocolate should not cause any detrimental health effects and may be beneficial to psychological and physical health.