The Dark Side of Chocolate
For years, chocolate was put on the “no-no” list because of its high concentrations of unhealthy fats, but things have changed. Recent research points to the health-promoting ingredients in chocolate, most notably the flavonoids and procyanidins found in the cocoa. These phytochemicals have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, and inflammation thanks to their powerful antioxidant effects. Studies have shown that when individuals consume these potent phytochemicals in chocolate and cocoa, the antioxidant status of their blood rises.
This is all promising data for fighting inflammation, but one must consider the following before gobbling up a large chunk of chocolate. Firstly, do not fret about the high levels of saturated fat, since the type found in chocolate does not raise cholesterol levels. Secondly, the flavonoid content of cocoa and chocolate varies considerably. Generally, the more cocoa a product contains, the higher the flavonoid content.
There is a higher concentration of cocoa in dark chocolate than in milk chocolate, and white chocolate is completely devoid of cocoa. Choose chocolate that contains at least 65 percent cocoa to maximize your flavonoid intake. Also, be aware that cocoa drink mixes, most notably Dutch cocoa, generally contain cocoa treated with alkali, which drastically lowers the flavonoid content.
Thirdly, limit the quantity of chocolate consumed. Moderation is key, seeing that 1½ ounces of chocolate (⅓ cup) contains 235 calories and 13 grams of fat. In comparison, ⅓ cup of fresh fruits or veggies contains a multitude of phytochemicals, antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals with only 15 to 50 calories and virtually no fat.