Can Chocolate Be Good For Us?

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For decades chocolate has been deemed "bad" for us. We have been told to avoid it at all costs if we wanted to remain healthy - however that all may be changing. Recent research shows chocolate may provide some health benefits for us.

But how can this be true? Chocolate is made up of stuff that is unhealthy!

Well, that is not entirely true.

Chocolate contains flavonoids, a powerful antioxidant found in plants.

Okay, how can these flavonoids help us? Well, that is the big question.

The first way they can be beneficial to us is by lowering our high cholesterol. Research shows that consuming chocolate may help to lower our bad cholesterol while improving our good cholesterol.

What is the difference between bad cholesterol and good cholesterol?

Bad cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol, is what thickens our arteries leading to heart attacks, strokes and heart disease. Good cholesterol, or HDL cholesterol, is what helps us prevent heart attacks, strokes and heart disease.

So chocolate can help lower our LDL cholesterol - that is excellent, what are some other benefits?

A recent study conducted at the University of California showed chocolate rich in flavonoids may help to bring down high blood pressure.

That's amazing, how?

Flavonoids promote vasodilation, a process that refers to the widening of blood vessels. Once vasodilation occurs blood flow increases, once blood flow increases blood pressure drops.

So, by eating chocolate we take in flavonoids, which in turn promotes vasodilation, which in turn lowers our blood pressure?

Yes, that is what the research is showing.

Great, any other chocolate benefits?

Yes, one of the most interesting chocolate benefits comes from a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania. This study showed that chocolate may improve cognitive impairment. Researchers found through clinical trials that elderly patients who consumed high to moderate amounts of chocolate for two months had significant improvements in their cognitive abilities.

How can chocolate improve cognitive ability?

Chocolate helps improve insulin sensitivity...improvement in insulin sensitivity is shown to improve cognitive ability...therefore consumption of chocolate can lead to an increase in cognitive ability by improving insulin sensitivity.

Wow, chocolate sounds great for me...does it matter what kind of chocolate I eat?

Yes. Most research points to dark chocolate as being the most beneficial. The reason for this is dark chocolate contains the highest concentration of flavonoids when compared to other types of chocolates, and flavonoids are what enable chocolate to provide its health benefits.

Okay, great, so I can start eating dark chocolate all the time?

Like anything else, moderation is best. A little dark chocolate can be of benefit to us while a lot of dark chocolate can do the opposite. Most research shows that 7 to 8 ounces a week can provide health benefits for us.

Dark chocolate's image of being "bad" for us appears to be changing. More and more research supports its health benefits and addition to our diet. However, before we head out to the market to pick up our favorite dark chocolate we must all remember...dark chocolate is only one part of a healthy diet and life style, a delicious part, but one part nonetheless.

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About the Author

Marc Macera, PharmD, RPh's picture

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Comments

Shloka Shankar's picture

Dear Dr. Marc,

                   I just came across your blog post and was lured in by the use of the word 'chocolate' in your title! I'm sure most of us are highly delighted and pleased that chocolate too has health benefits apart from being the primary agent for causing cavities! It's wonderful that research shows the benefits of chocolate as being able to control blood pressure, improve cognitive ability and what's more, reduces our bad cholestrol. Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to read about the goodness of chocolates. Now for those of us who are endowed with a sweet tooth, we have all the more reason to flaunt it and bask in the glory of chocolate ecstasy!

 

 

Regards,

Shloka 

Shloka Shankar

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