Is Chocolate Good for Your Diet?

On April 24, 2012 by Editor

Is Chocolate Good for Your Diet?

They say that having a little bit of what you fancy does you good, and goodness knows ever

Chocolates

Chocolates (Photo credit: J. Paxon Reyes)

yone loves a tipple from time to time. Many people’s vice of choice is chocolate. After all, as society becomes ever more aware of its health and diet, its vice like behaviors are also being reconsidered and participation in things like smoking and binge drinking are being reviewed and reduced by the health conscious. There’s nothing quite like unwrapping a bar of chocolate and taking a first precious nibble, the forbidden fruit, the tasty treat. Such is its appeal it does make you wonder what is the presence of chocolate doing to your body?

What’s the Story of Chocolate?

Chocolate can be referenced back to the Aztec period when cocoa beans were used as a form of currency. The Aztecs actually consumed chocolate in the form of a drink, and it was believed this liquid would bring them improved wisdom, improved energy levels and act as an aphrodisiac. Of course chocolate has evolved significantly since those days and is now made using cocoa paste and cocoa butter, sugar and cream or milk. In addition, it is mixed with a variety of artificial flavorings which, while improving the flavor can actually reduce health values. Chocolate is consumed in huge quantities over Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter holidays but also has a regular place in daily modern life, from a school run treat to wedding favours, chocolate really is all around us.

What is it about chocolate that makes you go weak at the knees?

There can be no doubt that eating chocolate makes you feel good. It increases chemicals in the brain including mood-altering PEA (phenylethylamine, related to amphetamine), which can even produce a very mild buzz. It also is known to make the brain to release serotonin, which can lift your mood and generally make you feel happier.

While it should clearly be eaten in moderation, it gets a thumbs up from researchers because it contains large quantities of antioxidants which are chemicals known to help neutralise some of the harmful chemicals which we come into contact with in day to day life. Researchers have found that 40g of chocolate, the size of a small bar can give your body more than 300g of polyphenals, which are the same type of antioxidant that gives red wine its medical properties. It is believed that red wine in moderation can help reduce heart disease and lower the risk of suffering from a cardiac arrest. Adding chocolate to a healthy and balanced diet could actually cut the risk of coronary heart disease by an incredible 76%. This, according to researchers translates into an improvement in average life expectancy of six and a half years for men and five years for women.

Dark chocolate

If you love your chocolate, a great thing to remember is that the darker it is, the better its health values. It is the concentration of cocoa in dark chocolate which gives it its beneficial content. Dark chocolate offers twice as many polyphenols, similar amounts as you might find present in one cup of green tea.  Chocolate’s polyphenols are actually claimed to be of the super-protective variety that means that its presence in your diet can contribute to the reduction of the clogging of arteries through the build up of cholesterol.

Bars of black Swiss Chocolate. From left to ri...

Bars of black Swiss Chocolate. From left to right: About 75% cacao; With chili; Normal black chocolate. Deutsch: Von links nach rechts: Hoher Kakaoanteil (um 75%), Mit Chili; Normale schwarze Schokolade. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Where’s the Catch?

Of course chocolate consumption is not a whole fairytale story and its enjoyment is certainly not without its drawbacks, the obvious one being its calorific content. By way of example 100g of milk chocolate contains 520 kcals. It really is vital that chocolate, when included in a balanced diet, is eaten in moderation. A great tip is to save chocolate for an after dinner treat, that way you are likelier to be less hungry and get the satisfaction feeling sooner with consuming less. You can also then nip to the bathroom and clean your teeth, reducing the risk of decay. Keep your recommended daily calorie intake in mind and make adjustments accordingly.

It can also be a pricey way to get a happy hit; in fact a good rule of thumb is the pricier it is, the better for you it is. Many would argue that taking to the streets of your neighbourhood for a run would release the same endorphin like feelings and at no cost. Plus you get a good shot of fresh air thrown in for good measure.

If it is eaten in good healthy quantities there is no reason why chocolate cannot feature in your diet and if you must indulge, go dark, the darker the better.

BOOKS
The Story of Chocolate (DK Readers Level 3)
Smart about Chocolate: Smart about History
“Green and Black’s” Chocolate Recipes: From the Cacao Pod to Muffins, Mousses and Moles

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