The following is an archived post
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, the holiday of hearts, flowers and of course, chocolate.
Inevitably (at least for me, as a nutritionist), this holiday brings back to the forefront the debate over chocolate, and the research regarding its potential health benefits.Chocolate is no stranger to health and nutrition controversy. A common and longtime myth, for example, is that chocolate causes acne.
Why the obsession with chocolate?
As it both sweet and creamy, chocolate is therefore a highly tasty and sought after food. Furthermore, the melting point of chocolate is slightly below human body temperature, which creates the sensation of chocolate melting in the mouth, making it even more palatable. Some scientific studies indicate that there is an even deeper biological response to chocolate—that the consumption of chocolate triggers pleasure centers in the brain and can also affect mood.
So what about those reported health benefits?
Dark chocolate, mainly cocoa, contains high levels of a group of antioxidants, substances that protect against cell damage and are linked to protection against disease, called polyphenols. In addition, some of the saturated fat content does not raise cholesterol. While this is certainly good news, we must be wary of claims that chocolate is a “health food,” as it is still quite high in calories and fat. Chocolate should not be substituted for other nutrient rich foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, which also contain these substances in high amounts, and for which there is solid evidence linking consumption to the protection against disease.
The bottom line?
Chocolate is a delicious food that contains some beneficial components and should be enjoyed sparingly in the context of a healthful and balanced diet. Dark chocolate contains the highest amount of these beneficial components.