Diet & Nutrition Archive

Break Me Off A Piece Of That Kit Kat Bar!   

Woman with ChocolateWe’ve all had those moments when the irresistible urge for chocolate  hits and our desire for a smaller midsection or slimmer thighs is  suddenly thrown out the window. One bite into that delectably rich  chocolate bar is often followed by feelings of guilt, regret, and even  anger. Chocoholics, eat up! The day has finally arrived when  chocolate is considered a healthy (and hopefully essential) food in  our diet, according to a study published in the British Medical  Journal.

A recent study conducted at the University of Cambridge analyzed  seven different studies in which the relationship between chocolate  consumption and cardiometabolic disorders such as heart disease,  stroke, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome were examined.  Comparing high and low chocolate consumption in over 4,576  references, researchers found a positive association between high  chocolate intakes and a reduction in risk factors for cardiometabolic  disorder, namely blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin resistance. Additionally, the highest level of chocolate consumption was related to a 37% decrease in cardiovascular disease, 31% decline in diabetes, and 29% reduction in stroke.

Cocoa, a major ingredient in chocolate, contains powerful antioxidants called flavonoids that aid in protection against oxidative cell and tissue damage that occurs as a result of biological and environmental stress. As an antioxidant, Cocoa is vital for fighting inflammation, hypertension, atherosclerosis, aging, cancer, and other detrimental diseases. It has previously been suggested that flavonoids work to prevent atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in the arteries, by inhibiting the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins or LDL (the bad cholesterol).

Although this study presented the beneficial link between high chocolate intake and reduced cardiovascular disease and stroke, researchers are wary of the message that might be received by the public.  Researcher Dr. Oscar H. Franco advises, “chocolate may be beneficial, but it should be eaten in a moderate way, not in large quantities and not in binges.” Overindulging in chocolate can lead to weight gain and potentially counteract the positive properties of cocoa.

The most effective types of chocolate were not pinpointed in this study, but it can be inferred that natural and dark chocolates will do the most for your health. It is crucial to focus on the quality of the chocolate because lots of commercially sold products contain added fat and sugar, which means added calories and a smaller amount of cocoa. Generally, look for chocolate that is at least 60% cocoa and steer clear of calorie-laden fillings and toppings.

If being heart-healthy wasn’t reason enough to dig in, high-cocoa chocolate also makes you a more content person. It contains serotonin, a brain chemical that acts to make you happy, encourages the release of endorphins, which produces feelings of bliss, and is comprised of a caffeine-like substance.

Remember:  The findings in this study do not give you a license to empty the chocolate river inside Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. For a healthy heart, mind, and body, limit your chocolate intake to a couple pieces each day.

Source: British Medical Journal Online. August 2011.

Past Articles:

Frequent Heartburn May Be Signs of GERD
Break Me Off A Piece Of That Kit Kat Bar!
Eh? What did you say I should eat?
Posting Calories-Not The Cure To Bad Food Decisions

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