Today is Valentine’s Day, and many people’s thoughts turn to chocolate. There are few foods as positively regarded as chocolate. It has a certain allure that you just don’t associate with broccoli.
Chocolate was even thought to be an aphrodisiac, although some interesting research from 2006 seemed to indicate that it doesn’t increase sexual desire.
It certainly increases pleasure for people who enjoy it though!
I’m a HUGE fan of chocolate, and I often get asked by my Online Coaching clients whether it’s a healthy choice.
Any food can be part of your nutrition plan, but the health benefits of chocolate vary.
What Kind Of Chocolate Is Best?
The higher the percentage of cocoa, the more health benefits it’s likely to have. I generally recommend 70% cocoa and above.
The terms “bittersweet” or “semi-sweet”, which refers to chocolate with a higher cocoa percentage.
These are often used for baking.
Regular milk chocolate can be as little as 10% cocoa.
The other ingredients are milk solids or powder, sugar, lecithin, and vanilla.
While it’s delicious, it doesn’t have a lot in the way of health benefit.
Cocoa powder, which can made into a delicious hot chocolate drink, is also an easy way of getting the benefits of chocolate. I often mix mine with whey protein powder and create a sugar-free hot chocolate drink.
Here Are A Few Health Benefits Of Chocolate:
Improving Your Mood
Cocoa triggers the release of endorphins (happy hormones), which are known to improve mood, lessen pain, and reduce stress.
Cocoa also contains other agents that help produce feel-good chemicals in the brain, like serotonin and dopamine. So cocoa possesses antidepressant and mood-elevating properties.
Heart Heart, Alzheimer’s, & Cancer
Chocolate contains polyphenols that have antioxidant properties. These antioxidants, by scavenging harmful free radicals, may reduce your risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and other degenerative diseases.
Eating chocolate has been shown to reduce high blood pressure in hypertensive patients, a key risk factor for heart disease.
The consumption of cocoa flavanols, a plant nutrient also found in tea, cherries, blueberries, apples, peanuts, and pears, has been shown to improve cognitive function in elderly subjects.
Chocolate has a very high flavanol content compared to other foods so it’s an easy way to get a high dose of what appears to be an important boost to mental health.
How Much Should You Eat?
In scientific research on the benefits of chocolate, one serving is 30g.
The protective effect of chocolate for CVD and stroke appears to peak at 3 servings per week. For diabetes, the effect is generally greatest at 2 servings a week.
Outside of 6 servings per week, chocolate is just adding sugar, fat, and calories to your nutrition plan without additional health benefits.
Anything To Watch Out For?
Chocolate may not be an ideal choice for people who suffer from acid reflux. The caffeine and theobromine in chocolate can cause the esophageal sphincter to relax and may cause reflux in susceptible individuals.
I suffer from GERD myself, and I try to limit chocolate when my reflux is acting up. But there’s not way I’m giving it up!
Should You Eat Chocolate?
Eating chocolate in reasonable quantities can be part of an enjoyable nutrition plan.
I wouldn’t use the health benefits as an excuse to eat more milk chocolate, since it probably won’t have that effect.
You can stay lean and healthy while eating chocolate, as long as it fits in with the other foods you eat daily.
So never spoil a sublime chocolate experience by feeling guilty.
Embrace the pleasure of this delicious treat.
Hmmm….I think I may get myself some now.