Chocolates, as if we need any more excuses to indulge in this sweet treat, have constant claims floating around that they might actually be good for you. Although there is some science to back that up, we may be missing the minute details. So, are chocolates healthy and have or is it just another marketing hoax? Here is all the truth you need to know about chocolate, it’s benefits and your health.
What actually is chocolate?
The chocolates, what you usually see in stores as a bar, stick or in literally any shape are derived from the fruit pods of the cacao tree that contains seeds that become cacao beans. These are then harvested and put through a lot of fermentation, drying, roasting, crushing, grounding and a number of other steps to finally be made into a paste called chocolate liquor. This is what is then processed into cocoa butter and added with milk and sugar to make different varieties of chocolate.
Different varieties of chocolate:
- Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate contains more chocolate liquor and less sugar and milk. It is rich in antioxidants.
Nutritional value (Per 28g): 155 Calories, 9g fat, 17g carbs, 14g sugar.
- Milk chocolate: Milk chocolate contains less chocolate liquor and more sugar and milk. It is high in Magnesium.
Nutritional value (Per 28g): 150 Calories, 9g fat, 17g carbs, 16g sugar.
- White chocolate: White chocolate is not chocolate because it doesn’t contain any cocoa solids to classify them as chocolate. But they contain small amounts of cocoa butter and more amounts of milk solids that make them white chocolate. It is rich in calcium.
Nutritional value (Per 28g): 162 Calories, 10g fat, 15g carbs, 15g sugar.
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The truth about benefits of chocolate and your health
Well, most of the claims that say that chocolate is good for you, talk about flavonoids and plant sterols, the chemical compounds found in plants that are linked with decreased risk of heart disease. These chemical compounds are also present in cocoa beans.
A study in 2015 found that 100 adults who drank high cocoa chocolate drink twice a day for a month had a significant drop in blood pressure. This means a decreased risk of stroke or heart problems. So, in addition to the antioxidant effects, chocolates also have the potential to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to the brain and heart.
A study in 2014 in nature neuroscience found that older adults did better on a memory task and had increased blood flow to particular memory centres in the brain after they drank a high-flavonoid cocoa drink for 90 days. This suggests a boost in brain health and a lowered risk of Alzheimer’s disease as a benefit of eating chocolate.
Another research showed that cocoa powder may also help lower the bad cholesterol and improve good cholesterol, reduce insulin resistance and is also shown to reduce stress.
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But, here’s the catch
A key point to note here on these experiments is that these aren’t done with your regular supermarket chocolates. These chocolates were mostly dark chocolates that were rich in flavonoids ad antioxidants and were processed differently than your regular chocolates thus carrying more benefits associated with chocolate.
The commercial chocolate that you buy in stores is processed to reduce the bitter taste of cocoa and to make it sweet. This is done by adding a lot of sugar and milk which reduces the levels of flavonoids or the body’s ability to absorb them. So, you won’t be finding these flavonoid-rich chocolates in the supermarket.
So, is chocolate good for your health?
Overall, there is evidence that flavonoids in chocolates have a beneficial effect on heart and brain health. More importantly, these compounds occur in small amounts in your average chocolate bar that if you want to get an effective dose, you have to actually eat quite a bit more chocolate than you should. Furthermore, all the sugar and chocolate that comes with it is going to outweigh any benefits. So, try not to overeat chocolates and fall into a pit of junk food addiction.
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Thus, although there are benefits of eating chocolate, it is less likely that you will get that good stuff anywhere in stores. The most you can do is to go for dark chocolate and choose the highest percentage of cacao you can tolerate.