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Is chocolate good or bad for your health? Well, it depends. Its effects on your phisical and mental health can be a tricky question. How can you decide whether you should refuse the temptation or say yes to a delicious bar winking at you? Let’s see what strategy you should consider.

The word ‘cocoa’ comes from ‘kakawa’ that meant ‘God food’ to the Olmec people living in today’s Central America 1500-500 B.C. Chocolate today is the subject of many studies and researches, being the most popular comfort food and a number one snack. Nowadays this treat is even more in the centre of attention when it comes to healthy lifestyle and diets. According to recent studies, chocolate consumption comes with many surprising benefits, some of which you might have not even heard of. Let’s dig deeper into this sweet topic…

cocoa beans

Milk or dark?

You say ‘flavanols’ – I say ‘what?’

Chocolate is a good antioxidant and has a positive effect on inflammation. Probably this is the factor that causes most of the beneficial effects. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power comes from a class of plant nutrients found in cocoa beans. These are flavonoids. Dark chocolate is rich in cocoa solids containing flavanols. At high levels, cocoa flavanols can help:

  • lower blood pressure
  • lessen cholesterol
  • reduce the risk of diabetes
  • lower the chance of cancer
  • cut down the possibility of dementia
  • improve cognition.

The health benefits of cocoa flavanols come with a price: they give a bitter flavor. If you eat dark chocolate with a distinct aroma, it might be a product of fermentation and roasting, which deepen the flavor but affects flavanol content.

Dark chocolate contains the most cocoa flavanols. The milk version has less amount of those, while the white one – that has nothing to do with cocoa – has none. If you buy chocolate that is at least 60% cacao, you make sure it has the healthy ingredients. Generally speaking, the higher the percentage, the more flavanols it provides.

Cocoa butter 

Cocoa butter has different components that support your body. 30% of the fat in cocoa butter is stearic acid. It is a saturated fat that has a neutral effect on blood cholesterol (unlike other saturated fats). Besides, cocoa powder contributes minerals, such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc, which your body also benefits from. Dark chocolate is higher in cocoa butter than milk chocolate (or white that contains non), so it is a better source of these beneficial ingredients.

 

Other choices to make

Natural or not?

You often see Duth cocoa in the stores. However, it is recommended to choose natural cocoa instead. The Dutch version is treated with an alkali, which creates a milder flavor. It is recommended for many recipes, since it gives cakes a sweet and mild flavor. However, this process removes healthful flavanols, which are found in natural cocoa powder. That is also not a disliked ingredient when it comes to cookies and other sweet treats.

Then there is the milk and sugar. Commercials might not be the best source to rely on when shopping. Most popular chocolate bars contain a lot of milk and sugar, which is not so good for you. Milk chocolate is not a nutritious part of your diet and does not really come with the effects promised by commercials. Eating it – just like all enjoyable foods – gives you a rush of endorphins. These are the same feel-good chemicals that your body releases when you exercise. However, this has nothing to do with how nutritious the food is. Eating dark chocolate without the added sugar and milk can be as a good of an endorphin source as any other food you enjoy, while it has a higher nutrition value.

Yes, the size matters now

Dark chocolate has compounds with health benefits, but the size of portions matters. Too many bites mean extra fat, sugar and calories, which ruin the positive effects. Although if you have small portions only, you can eat it even on a daily basis.

Eating chocolate on a regular basis is good for the heart, can play a good part in battling atherosclerosis, and can lead to a better cognitive function (including brain activities that lead to gaining knowledge). A small amount each day could prevent diabetes, insulin resistance and stroke, too. Cocoa consumption also helps fighting diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Limit portions to daily 30 grams of dark chocolate (or about 150 calories), so that you do not have too much but can increase the possibility to enjoy the benefits.


Is buying chocolate an urgent or important task? Check our article on the Urgent or Important? – Eisenhower Matrix to get to know how to make priorities.


Where to purchase? 

Try to stick to organic brands and avoid chocolate from companies selling delicious but not so nutritious treats, full of added sugar and other ingredients. Their chocolate is not as pure as that of other sources. Do not forget that it does have a high calorie count and can contain large amount of sugar.

It used to be a common misconception that this snack was the cause of skin acne breakouts. Today we know that  organic dark chocolate can fight against skin damage, due to its flavanol content. Of course, you should not skip wearing sunscreen if you eat some, but it can help with the simpler everyday skin issues.

chocolate bars

 

Useful tips to consider

  • Choose dark chocolate over milk (contains more lfavanols that cause most health benefits)
  • Buy chocolate that is at least 60% cocoa (to ensure high nutrition quality)
  • Quality over quantity (200 gramm equals 800-1000 calories, half of an average adult’s daily needs)
  • Say no to Dutch chocolate (processed with alkali, which method lessens the amount of useful flavanols)
  • Get suspicious when the list of ingredients start with sugar (it for sure is not the healthiest choice)

Summary

This article might be a good reminder for you to always be conscious about treating your body. Chocolate is not a bad thing for you in general. However, you need to be careful when choosing the right brand and right ingredients, which can even make chocolate consumption a beneficial part of your diet. Choosing dark chocolate over milk chocolate (and white chocolate) is a good first step towards reaching this. The second one could be purchasing chocolate from organic stores.

There are many different kinds of healthy chocolate you can choose from. Stay conscious about your decisions and enjoy the journey in the world of this sweet treat.


See why it is important for your productivity to live a healthy life: Why are healthy emloyees more productive? – Battlejungle Blog


Would you give up on your favourite kind of chocolate if it turns out to be unhealthy? Which kind do you prefer? Leave your comments in the comment section on this sweet topic.

 

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