Valentine’s Day is known for chocolate. But chocolate can be as good for you as it can be bad for you. Know the difference before you start to indulge. Note: I wrote a book about Chocolate called: Chocolate: the bad, the mediocre and the awesome on www.DrHollyBooks.com .
Chocolate is a phenomenal food that has a long history. Probably due to the fact that it has over 1400 known compounds and over 400 nutrients that the body requires!! That’s a lot – wouldn’t you say? The fruit – yes cocoa is a fruit – there are 26 basic varieties and now various additional altered varieties. It is the seeds from the cocoa fruit that we dry and utilize to make “chocolate”.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, there is very little, if any, of the real chocolate, in the junk chocolate. Much of it is artificial flavoring and of course, most of it is loaded with sugar!! Causing more problems that the real things solves!!
Besides the huge collection of vitamins and minerals (e.g., calcium, copper, magnesium and potassium) and wonderful omega 3s (oleic acid which is an omega 9 is beneficial to the cardiovascular system and increases HDL and reduces LDL AND predominates over the palmitic acid; palmitic is found in low levels, and is known to increase cholesterol concentrations; and stearic acids – which doesn’t effect cholesterol levels because it is converted to stearic acid) and good pre and probiotics, chocolate is also well known for its powerful polyphenols: procyanidins and epicatechins. Now these two groups of bioflavonoids, one of the many categories of polyphenols, are incredibly powerful as:
- Powerful anti-oxidant due to the polyphenols and in particular the procyanidins which are 5x higher in dark chocolate than milk chocolate
- Theobromine is one of the polyphenols and does better at stopping coughing than prescriptions
- Proanthrocyanidins are another polyphenol – condensed tannin – powerful anti-oxidants – 20x higher than Vit C and 50 times higher than Vit E – they also strengthen arteries and veins and lower blood pressure; slow neuropathy development in diabetics; and diabetes induced cataract formation
- Specific anti-oxidant for the skin protecting it from UV damage
- The polyphenols upgrade nitric oxide in the body – allows for arterial expansion/contraction – vasodilator and vascular endothelial growth factor – ie., strength the membrane lining of the vascular system
- Has very good cardio benefits – it is a leading food for magnesium content which is an antiarrhythmic (irregular heart rhythms) and hypotensive (used to treat high blood pressure)
- Powerful anti-inflammatory
- Protects nerves from injury and inflammation that cause problems with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, strokes, etc
- Contains various neurotransmitters and neuropeptides associated with “feeling good”
- Catechins and epicatechins also increase cerebral blood flow which helps to protect the brain
- Reverse insulin resistance and reverse diabetes!!
- Stimulates redox-sensitive signaling pathways involved in gene expression AND immune response
- Increases sense of satiety – or feeling full – and thus can help with weight loss
- The copper component is used as a cofactor for a number of enzymes; glucose metabolism; iron transport and various growth and development issues
- The potassium component can help protect against sodium overload
- The iron component protects against anemia and hemoglobin issues causing fatigue and shortness of breath
- The polyphenols do cause the bitterness (which is combated by the omega 3s) are 5x higher in the dark chocolate
Remember, this is only a short list of the benefits of chocolate – BUT there is a catch!!! You want to eat the REAL chocolate, not the processed “junk” chocolate with all the sugar, and other “stuff” in it. You want the real 100% chocolate, with all the vitamins, minerals, omega 3s, anti-oxidants and so much more!!!
When you crave chocolate – the question to ask yourself is:
- Are you craving the sugars to feed the bad bacteria in your body
- Are you craving the healthy 100% chocolate with all of its benefits to the body
As a side note, historically, chocolate was consumed for its healing and medicinal benefits. In various cultures, it was eaten by warriors before going off to war to increase the body’s capacity for stamina and endurance.
Choices Unlimited for Health & Wellness
Dr. Holly Fourchalk, Ph.D., DNM®, RHT, MH, AAP, HT