Chocolate really is good for you. But not the kind of chocolate you have grown to love: Snickers, Twix, Kit Kats, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, etc.
Sure, they may taste great. But they aren’t so tasty to your physique. All are typically high in refined white sugar, milk fats and hydrogenated oils.
I’m talking about dark chocolate . It’s been in the news quite a bit lately. Research has shown that dark chocolate does in fact have impressive overall health properties including antioxidant properties. According to the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, dark chocolate contains about eight times the polyphenol antioxidants found in strawberries.
What specifically makes dark chocolate so good for you? The pure cocoa that comes from the bean of the cacao plant. Raw cacao is considered one of the world’s richest sources of antioxidant flavonoids, phytonutrients, and polyphenols.
Studies confirm that the dark chocolate products with the highest levels of antioxidants should contain at least 65-70% pure cocoa powder. Most dark chocolate products will tell you the % of cacao on label. In general, the higher the % of cacao, the more health benefits and better nutritional value. When it comes to dark chocolate, bitter is better.
Now on to the research. I ran across 2 studies showing that dark chocolate consumption can lower high blood pressure and can have a healthy impact on cholesterol levels.
The study on blood pressure was conducted in Germany at the University Hospital of Cologne. One of the lead researchers in the study, Dirk Taubert, M.D.Ph D, concluded that small amounts of dark chocolate “efficiently reduced blood pressure.”
The study included 44 adults, men and women aged 56-73. All 44 test subjects had mild hypertension and were not taking any blood pressure medication or supplements. They were given small 30-calorie doses of dark chocolate every day for 18 weeks. (By the way, a 30 calorie dose is about the size of one hershey’s kiss). All other lifestyle factors remained constant. They all kept their normal diet and fitness habits over the course of the 18 weeks.
All lowered their systolic blood pressure (the top number) by nearly 3 points and lowered their diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) by almost 2 points.
The study on cholesterol levels was published in the Southern Medical Journal. Researchers studied 28 individuals. The subjects ate 1 oz of dark chocolate every day for 7 days. The results: LDL (the bad cholesterol) dropped by 6%. HDL (the good cholesterol) increased by 9 %.
Take home message>>>>If you have the choice, choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate. And make sure it’s at least 65-70% cacao. Check the label. Of course, dark chocolate isn’t the magic bullet in defeating high blood pressure or high cholesterol. It’s not the only thing needed. A healthy lifestyle including a healthy diet, regular exercise, and losing weight all play an important role.
But the research confirms having a small amount of dark chocolate per day is beneficial and could be an easy addition to your daily diet. It’s chocolate! Just remember, it still contains a lot of calories and fat, so “moderation” is the key word here. Don’t go crazy and eat an entire bag. Limit yourself to small amounts of dark chocolate. Think of it as a treat for yourself. It tastes great, and it’s good for you.
Here’s a baking idea: when a recipe calls for chocolate, use dark chocolate or cocoa powder as a substitute.
Until next time.
Stay healthy and stay active,
Jason Johnson, ACE-CPT