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The Hidden Powers of Chocolate

August 28 2012

The Hidden Powers of Chocolate

By: Debra Meszaros- CSN

Confused about chocolate? You’re not alone, even the “so called” experts are too!

There’s been a few interesting studies recently on chocolate as the debate on whether or not there are any true benefits to chocolate continue. Honestly, I believe the confusion revolves around the type of chocolate rather than whether it has any health benefits. Understanding chocolate terminology is where we begin.
Understanding the differences between types of chocolate is important and can determine whether or not it’s healthy.

A small evergreen tree of the specie Theobroma cacao is cultivated for its seeds, cacao or cocoa bean. Cacao beans roasted and husked then ground into a powder known as cocoa. During this process most of the fat is removed and we know the fat component of the cacao seed as cocoa butter. The roasted cacao seeds are used to create chocolate and when not roasted, are known as “raw” chocolate. As in most foods, the closer the cocoa is to its natural state, the higher its nutrition.

So what benefits might we be talking about?

Some of the claimed benefits are associated with your heart, blood vessels, brain, nervous system, and the antioxidant punch the “right” chocolate can contain. It is of importance that we understand we are discussing Cacao and not commercially processed chocolate. Cacao is high in resveratrol and epicatechin, both potent antioxidants. Raw cacao is the best choice due to its high flavanol content but the flavanols make the cacao bitter by nature and unfortunately many manufactures remove them, depleting some of the health benefits associated with them. Selecting the highest content of cacao with the lowest sugar content is ideal. The darker the chocolate, the higher its cacao content.

What can make a good thing bad?

Steering clear of some key ingredients can protect the health benefits of cacao. The type of sweeteners used can make a difference and should influence your decision on which to purchase. It is suggested to strictly avoid any product which uses any artificial sweetener. Sweeteners like fructose, high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, evaporated cane sugar, malt, maple, dates, rice syrup, tapioca syrup, and coconut sugar are also lowering the health benefits of chocolate. Honey is okay in moderation but best choices would be stevia or lo han. Don’t be fooled by the association of fructose as a natural sweetener; fructose breaks down in the body into various waste products like uric acid. Uric acid is known to raise blood pressure, contribute to the formation of kidney stones, and contribute to gout.

Additionally, selecting certified organic chocolate insures your chocolate is not produced from
genetically engineered cocoa beans.

Believe it or not, fat is your friend when it comes to selecting chocolate and the type of fat is important as well. The right fat will slow down the release of sugar, controlling the insulin spike. The natural fat that exists normally within the cacao bean (coco butter) is ideal. Second best choice would be coconut oil and never chocolate that contains soybean oil, vegetable oil, or any trans fats.

So now you know how to choose the healthiest chocolate, how much of it should you eat?

Like any good thing, it can turn bad if we overdo it, and chocolate is no exception. Since most diets are high in sugar to begin with, it is probably not a good idea to consume chocolate everyday. As a supporter of the four-day rotational diet plan, in order to avoid the possibility of creating a sensitivity, intolerance, or allergy to chocolate my suggestion would be to not exceed two servings per week. As an example in the four-day rotational diet that would mean eating chocolate on Monday and Friday would be your limit. An ideal serving size would be somewhere between 1-2 ounces.

Although studies show the benefits of the right chocolate, it can still cause adverse reactions in certain individuals. Certain compounds in chocolate have the same effect as caffeine. It is always advised that individuals should listen to their body; often you can tell whether any food is truly beneficial to you.

©2012 Debra Meszaros All rights reserved; no duplication without permission.
DISCLAIMER: When you read through the diet and lifestyle information, you must know that everything within it is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional. I am making no attempt to prescribe any medical treatment. You should not use the information here for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment. The products and the claims made about specific products have not been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. You should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem. Confirm the safety of any supplements with your M.D., N.D. or pharmacist (healthcare professional). Some information given is solely an opinion, thought and or conclusion based on experiences, trials, tests, assessments or other available sources of information. I do not make any guarantees or promises with regard to results. I may discuss substances that have not been subject to double blind clinical studies or FDA approval or regulation. You assume the responsibility for the decision to take any natural remedy.
You and only you are responsible if you choose to do anything with the information you have read. You do so at your own risk. Use your intelligence to make the decisions that are right for you. Consulting a naturopathic doctor is strongly advised especially if you have any existing disease or condition.