The Good News About Chocolate

Most people enjoy chocolate and agree that its tastes wonderful, yet chocolate somehow has the reputation for being a food that you are supposed to avoid.  Something that tastes so good should be bad for you right? Think again! Chocolate is actually good for you.  Here are some encouraging facts about chocolate that you may not know, and may just convince you that it’s really OK to have some chocolate.

Cocoa is a plant based food containing a group of phytochemicals called polyphenols.  Flavenols are a subclass of polyphenols and are currently under much study for their antioxidant abilities.  Numerous health benefits including protection from cancer and lowering of blood pressure have been associated with foods high in antioxidants. Chocolate polyphenols have been reported to decrease LDL (that is, the bad form of cholesterol), and this finding could have a positive impact on heart health because LDL levels are a risk factor for atherosclerosis.  Although chocolate is high in fat, it contributes less than 2% of the fat in the American diet.  The main sources of fat in our diet come from meat, dairy products and fried foods.  These are the foods most likely to contribute to weight gain.  Chocolate also contains several essential minerals such as copper, magnesium, iron, and zinc.

Before you start eating chocolate candy, cookies or cake, it’s important to know that not all forms of chocolate have high amounts of antioxidants.  Cocoa has a strong taste that comes from flavenols, but when processed, flavenols are lost.  Many commercial chocolates go through processing that can reduce any health benefit.  While manufacturers continue to figure out the best way to keep flavenols intact, your best bet is to select dark chocolate.  Skip the kinds with marshmallows and caramel, and stick with plain dark chocolate.

Of course, balance and moderation are always the key to any healthy diet.  Remember that chocolate can fit into a healthful eating pattern, so there’s no reason to feel guilty if you love chocolate!  An ounce or two of dark chocolate daily is generally OK.  You still need to eat a variety of foods each day and make sure that you are not eating chocolate to the exclusion of other foods.  Chocolate will not only add pleasure to your eating experience, but you just might be a little healthier from eating it too!

© 2010, Gretchen Scalpi, RD, CDE.  Publication rights granted to all venues so long as article and by-line are reprinted intact and all links are made live.

Gretchen is an author, consultant, speaker and Registered Dietitian & Certified Diabetes Educator.  She is also a Certified LEAP Therapist (Lifestyle Eating and Performance), specializing in the clinical management of food sensitivities and related conditions.  She opened her private nutrition practice in 2002 and has expanded to two office locations in New Windsor and Beacon, NY.  Gretchen’s practice provides individual nutritional counseling in the areas of diabetes, weight management, food sensitivities, gastrointestinal disorders, and general wellness. To work with Gretchen Scalpi please visit http://www.nutritionxpert.com

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