Health Benefits of Chocolate? You have got to be kidding me, no you read that right there are many benefits of dark chocolate. But, that would be for a Healthy Chocolate. What makes this sweet healthy? we will explore all the options.
While chocolate is typically eaten for pleasure, recent studies have suggested that cocoa or dark chocolate may possess certain beneficial effects on human health. Cocoa contains flavonols, plant-based compounds that also are credited with giving red wine its heart-healthy benefits.
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These flavonols have a significant anti-oxidant action, protecting against LDL oxidation, perhaps more than other anti-oxidant-rich foods and beverages. Some studies have also observed a modest reduction in blood pressure after consuming dark chocolate daily.
One such study on chocolate and the circulatory system was conducted at the Cologne (Germany) Hospital by University of Cologne researcher Dr. Dirk Taubert.
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As the study's lead author, Dr. Taubert said the blood pressure reductions with dark chocolate were small but still substantial enough to potentially reduce cardiovascular disease risks.
Study volunteers weren't followed long enough to measure that effect conclusively, but, said Taubert, "It is very unlikely that other factors may explain the blood pressure reduction." These results echo other small studies of cocoa-containing foods.
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Of course, the unconstrained consumption large quantities of any energy-rich food such as chocolate is thought to increase the risk of obesity without a corresponding increase in activity. Raw chocolate is high in cocoa butter, a fat which is removed during chocolate refining then added back in varying proportions during the manufacturing process.
Due to the natural bitterness of chocolate, manufacturers typically add other fats, sugars, and milk as well, all of which increase the caloric content of chocolate. In the Cologne study, Taubert and his colleagues used small amounts of the least expensive chocolate available. Each serving contained just 30 calories each.
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It appears that consuming milk chocolate or white chocolate, or drinking fat-containing milk with dark chocolate may negate the health benefit as one may have to consume large quantities of chocolate containing many calories. If those calories go unused the result would be an obesity issue which, in turn, is one of the risk factors for heart disease.
Dark chocolate, on the other hand, is more closely related to raw chocolate and has fewer additives making it a healthier choice.
Another option to combat obesity is to exercise in conjunction with the use of dark chocolate allowing one to gain the best possible health benefit from the use of chocolate. "Rationally applied, cocoa products may be part of an antihypertensive diet," Dr. Taubert said.
Processed cocoa powder (so called Dutch chocolate), processed with alkali greatly reduces the antioxidant capacity as compared to "raw" cocoa powder.
Processing cocoa with alkali destroys most of the flavonoids. Cold-processed cacao has been found to preserve the highest levels of anti-oxidants of any of the processing methods.
In summary, look for cold-processed cacao with the lowest fat content, consume it in moderation, and couple this with a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. The benefits to your health could be endless.