Chocolates can keep you healthy and your skin glowing - really! HealthAnswers finds out why chocolates need not be a guilty pleasure.
For years, chocolate has been linked to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, acne and more. It is this connection that has given chocolate a bad name. New research however, brings good news for the chocolate lover. Many scientific studies are hinting that chocolate really is not all that bad and in fact, many beneficial effects of chocolate have come to light. Let's explore the myths and new research about chocolate to determine whether abstaining from that "oh-so favorite" food is really essential.
Chocolate And Heart Disease
Chocolate has been maligned as being an unhealthy food for the heart due to its fat, saturated fat and calorie content. Excessive fat and kilojule intake does impact heart health. But, if you stay with just that one little bite to satisfy a craving, eating chocolate can't really harm the heart!
For starters, the type of saturated fat - stearic acid - the predominant saturated fat in cocoa butter does not affect LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and in fact, raises the HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Darker chocolate has more cocoa butter than milk chocolate.
Besides, scientific research has recently uncovered the presence of phenolic compounds in cocoa butter. These phenolic compounds function as antioxidants and prevent the LDL from getting oxidized. It is "Oxidized" LDL, also called "bad" cholesterol, that blocks an artery, resulting in an eventual heart attack.
Chocolate And Overweight & Obesity
Excessive consumption of chocolate can result in weight gain. Yes, you can get overweight and obese on chocs, especially if you are physically inactive.
However, if consumed in small amounts,chocolate will not really add inches to your waistline especially if you exercise regularly.
Chocolate And Diabetes
Not only chocolates, but sugar-containing foods too, have been blamed for diabetes. No direct scientific connection has been established. However, an indirect connection may exist. Excessive weight gain has been linked to the onset of diabetes (Type II).
For diabetics, a good alternative would be to consume chocolates that have been specially made for them, that is, one that has been prepared with an artificial sweetener. However, here too, moderation is of essence since the fat content is high. For consumption of normal chocolates, it would be a good idea to meet up with a consultant dietitian, to determine how much can be consumed - especially if you have sweet tooth all your life and need to modify your diet.
Chocolates and Acne
Chocolate has been described as a "heaty" food that causes acne. However, to date there is no scientific proof to establish this link. Maintaining a good facial cleaning schedule and drinking lots of water, along with appropriate topical medication, are really the best way to handle acne.
Chocolates and Dental Concerns
Not only sugars, but all carbohydrates such as starches like rice, bread and noodles too, get fermented in the mouth. Acid produced by oral bacteria that digest and ferment carbohydrates, can damage tooth enamel and cause tooth decay. How often and how long the tooth is exposed to fermentable carbohydrates affects the development of dental cavities.
Chocolate, due to its natural fat content clears the mouth at a faster rate than other candies. Besides, chocolate is also a good source of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, which help maintain strong teeth. Hence, it is quite unlikely that dental cavities are a direct result of chocolate consumption alone. It would be a good idea to practice good dental hygiene by brushing twice daily with a fluoride tooth paste and rinsing your mouth with water after eating something.
Chocolates and Headaches/Migraines
Many individuals associate headaches and migraines with chocolate consumption. A true connection has not been established yet, more scientific studies are needed. For those of you who suspect a connection, it would be a good idea to maintain a food diary along with a symptom record to be able to establish an allergy or intolerance.
Chocolates and Allergies
Don't always blame the chocolate! Allergy after chocolate consumption may actually be due to other ingredients added to chocolate during processing, viz, corn syrup, lecithin, gluten or nuts.
Chocolate and Caffeine
Contrary to popular belief, chocolate really does not contain too much caffeine. A 45 gram piece of milk chocolate contains about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of decaffeinated coffee.
The Bottom Line
Chocolate contains good saturated fat, some bone building minerals, antioxidants and very little caffeine. Hence, minus fat and kilojules, chocolate really is not as bad as it is made out to be. Therefore, a tiny little bar or two to three squares of chocolate is an indulgence that you can safely enjoy without guilt. So, the next time a craving strikes, give in and enjoy.
|How Much Harm Is A Little Chocolate?|
|Milk chocolate bar (40g)
||210 calories and 13g fat|
|Dark chocolate bar (40g)
||200 calories and 11g fat|
|Kit Kat bar (43g)
||210 calories and 11g fat|
|M & M plain (1 packet at 45g)
||220 calories and 10g fat|
|Snickers bar (1 piece at 57g)
||270 calories and 13g fat|
Date reviewed: 06 July 2000