Health Benefits Of Chocolate

There are those who would say that chocolate is, possibly, humanity's greatest culinary invention. It contains endorphin-releasing polyphenols, which can soothe frayed nerves, satisfy cravings, and bring some measure of relief to an otherwise stressful day. It is a delicious, and fat laden guilty pleasure.

Well sure, everyone knows that chocolate is loaded with fat, and calories. But here's something you may not know. It's not all bad fat! It does have some saturated fats. Specifically, Stearic, and Palmitic acids, which have been linked to elevated LDL cholesterol. But it also has an equal amount of Oleic acid. This is a monounsaturated fat that is also found in olive oil, and is considered heart-healthy.

Get your Flavonoids, here!

Plants produce a compound called flavonoids, to protect them from enviromental toxins. When we eat plant-based foods (chocolate is derived from the cacao plant), we reap the benefits of these flavonoids, in the form of antioxidants. These help prevent cell damage caused by free radicals, which are formed through normal bodily processes such as breathing. Also entering your body through environmental toxins, like cigarette smoke, and air pollution, free radicals have been linked to elevated cholesterol, and various types of cancer.

Some plant-based foods known to contain large amounts of these antioxidants are: red wine, strawberries, cranberries, peanuts, tea, and, you guessed it... CHOCOLATE!

Here's The Catch

Before you go sprinting to the pantry for that Three Musketeers bar, there is a caveat. These health benefits have only been shown to exist in dark chocolate. It is less processed than other chocolates, thus there is less loss of beneficial compounds. In two recently publicized studies, it was shown that milk chocolate has little or no health benefit. Even drinking milk with dark chocolate negates the the power of the flavonoids. It is thought that milk blocks the body's ability to absorb the antioxidants in chocolate.

The first study was conducted on thirteen individuals, who had recently been diagnosed with "mild" high blood pressure. Their average systolic (top number) blood pressure was 153. Their average diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure was 84. For two weeks, they were given 100 grams of chocolate each day, and asked to offset the 480 calories, by cutting back on other foods. Some were given dark chocolate, and some got white chocolate. At the end of the study, the people who had dark chocolate, showed an average 5 point drop in systolic pressue, and an average 2 point drop in diastolic pressure. The white chocolate subjects showed no change.

The second study was conducted on twelve healthy individuals. On different days, they were each given 100 grams of dark chocolate, 100 grams of milk chocolate, and 100 grams of dark chocolate with a glass of milk. In each case, a blood test, one hour after eating the chocolate, revealed that those eating dark chocolate alone had the highest levels of antioxidants in their blood.

By the numbers

Typically, dark chocolate is rated by percentage of cocoa solids (chocolate liquor) contained in the chocolate. Due to the publicity of the health benefits, many manufacturers are advertising these percentages prominently on the label of their products. Typically, dark chocolate is indicated by a percentage of 50% or more(The other 50% being made up, largely, from sugars). With the majority of health benefits coming from chocolate containing 70% or more cocoa solids, some higher quality brands range up to 85% If you go much higher than that, you are getting into unsweetened, or bitter chocolate.

How much is too much?

As with everything, moderation is the key. It is also wise to reduce caloric intake of other foods to offset the added calories of the chocolate. Studies are still being done, to determine the tipping point between moderation, and too much of a good thing. The most common number I've seen is one to two ounces a day.

As with salads, the benefits of chocolate will vary, depending upon the added ingredients. If you add cheese, bacon, and a quart of ranch dressing to your salad... I'm sure you know the deal. Likewise, an ounce of dark chocolate, covered with two ounces of caramel, marshmallow, and nougat is obviously not helping anyone. With a little common sense, you can have your chocolate and eat it too!

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Comments 20 comments

Lissie profile image

Lissie 8 years ago from New Zealand

Ah my favourite food group: dark chocolate, dark chocolate with liqueur fillings, dark chocoalte with rum and raison, dark chocolate with almonds! But it has to be 70% minimum! Dark chocolate rules!


rmr profile image

rmr 8 years ago from Livonia, MI Author

Absolutely, Lissie! I don't touch milk chocolate, anymore. It's just too bland, after eating the good stuff!


JJC13 profile image

JJC13 8 years ago from Liverpool

chocolates chocolates!

my wife and I love chocolates..


jim10 profile image

jim10 8 years ago from ma

MMM!

I don't think I could ever have too much chocolate. My favorites would be chocolate Truffles from Godiva but they are expensive. Their is a Mrs. Nelsons candy store within a few miles. I love going there a few times a year and getting chocolate almond bark, turtles and fudge. Their candy is great. I should start going a few times a month.


dayzeebee profile image

dayzeebee 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

yep this is good research here. i just started switching to dark chocolates too. thanks.


rmr profile image

rmr 8 years ago from Livonia, MI Author

Thanks for taking the time to read, and comment. I get so tired of hearing about the things that are bad for you. That's why I have started looking for the health benefits in traditionally bad foods.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America

Flavanoids are good things, but I only like chocolate when fruit or fruit jells are doopped into it; for that, dark chocloate is best, imo.

Godiva is hailed as good chocolate, but all of their line tastes like dirt to me. I am not a chocolate fan and it shows.


cvaughn570 8 years ago

My hubby got me started on Dove dark chocolate. Now, I find out that it's not so bad for me since we only eat it occasionally as a treat! Thanks, Carol


Abhinaya 8 years ago

Chocolates are my weakness.My kids say I eat more chocolates than they do because they disappear before they are back home from school.:D.I love them Rob...can't resist the temptation:))) Thanks for the informative article.Thumbs Up!


rmr profile image

rmr 8 years ago from Livonia, MI Author

Patty, I've heard it said, that you cannot trust someone who doesn't like chocolate. You are, obviously the exception to that rule! It's always good to hear from you! B.t. (looking over my shoulder) says hi!

CVAUGHN, you should thank your husband. As chocolate goes, you could do worse than Dove. I don't know if you like the show, "Friends", but as I wrote this hub, I couldn't help thinking about the "Mockolate" episode.

Abhinaya, welcome! Your weakness just became guilt-free! You should try combining two passions, try your chocolate with with chillies! Thanks, so much, for commenting!


Woody Marx profile image

Woody Marx 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Yes it is good for you, just as I always suspected! Thanks for confirming this for me! ;) Generally speaking, if you just eat the opposite of everything they tell you is good for you, you will live much longer. If not, you will certainly die happier. (sarcasm intended). :)


rmr profile image

rmr 8 years ago from Livonia, MI Author

Glad you stopped by, Woody! I agree! You wouldn't believe how much trouble I'm having researching the health benefits of battered and deep fried foods! So, happier it is!


byee profile image

byee 8 years ago

Yum...I feel like I did after watching the movie "Chocolat" (Johnny Depp, Julia Ormond). Dark chocolate = antioxidants = yay!!!


TessieSetiabudi profile image

TessieSetiabudi 8 years ago

Thanks... now I don't need to feel guilty to eat it.


ChrisSnil profile image

ChrisSnil 8 years ago from United Kingdom

A very interesting hub indeed! I wasn't too much of a fan of dark chocolate when I was younger, but as I've grown up my tastes changed and I now can't get enough of the stuff - especially in profiteroles *drool*

To read that it's also good for you is pleasing news =)


ExtremeSpeedDatin profile image

ExtremeSpeedDatin 8 years ago from Maine and Newhampshire

I have a love/hate relationship with chocolate. I hate to love it! I can't get enough of it. I'm one of those people that have to have it after everything I eat. Ok so I have an addiction. At least its not crack!


compu-smart profile image

compu-smart 8 years ago from London UK

Mmm CHOCCLATTEEEE!!:D

I have started to eat lots more chocolate and feel less guilty when its covered in nuts and raisins!

The milky bars are on me!!


Lorne S. Marr profile image

Lorne S. Marr 8 years ago from Markham, Ontario

There's something I'm happy to hear! In fact, I'll probably go open a dark chocolate now. Thanks for the info.


naslund26 7 years ago from Canada

I love chocolate,love the health benifates, but i think for me quiting chocolate all together is healthyer than to eat it resonably for the good benefits.


couponalbum profile image

couponalbum 6 years ago from Sunnyvale, CA

This is really a great hub. Nice information

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