We'd all like to believe in dark chocolate health benefits. But are they for real?
Over the past several years we've been bombarded with headline grabbing news reports and antioxidant marketing about "dark chocolate health benefits."
Could our wildest dreams be true? Or is it all just hype? Let's find out.
Dark Chocolate Health Benefit Research
Several studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition over the past few years showed that dark chocolate may have antioxidant and heart health benefits.
- The first study found that cocoa or chocolate "when added to a healthy diet" provided benefits of antioxidants, increased good HDL cholesterol and stopped harmful oxidation of bad LDL cholesterol.
- A more recent Italian study showed that 3½ ounces a day of dark chocolate over several weeks lowered blood pressure and improved insulin sensitivity.
- And University of California research found that dark chocolate helped prevent platelets from becoming sticky, which increases the risk of dangerous blood clots.
Dark Chocolate Research Negatives
What was wrong with the studies?
- They were all small, with only 23 people in the first, 15 in the Italian study and just 40 participants in the University of California project.
- The Chocolate Industry has funded all the research, making results questionable.
- Most chocolate products are high in artery-clogging saturated fats, which have been found to raise harmful LDL cholesterol levels.
- The studies used amounts equivalent to two or three standard dark chocolate bars a day. This would replace other nutritious food and is far more chocolate than a health-oriented person would normally eat. It's unknown if lower amounts offer benefits.
- The Italian study participants got 500 daily calories of chocolate high in saturated fat and sugar. This counteracts any potential health benefits and can lead to high blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides, plus over weight, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Although research results for chocolate are questionable, the antioxidant and heart health benefits of vegetables, fruits and whole grains are unequivocal.
These high fiber foods are proven to help lower cholesterol and significantly reduce your risk of many degenerative diseases, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
And most fruits and vegetables are low in calories.
This means the more you eat, the less room you have for high calorie foods such as candy, pastries, chips, and soda. That's a huge health benefit.
Hope for Chocolate Lovers
Here's the good news. The rich flavor of chocolate is possible without all the unhealthy sugar, saturated fat and high calories in candy and cocoa butter. How?
You can make hot chocolate with unsweetened cocoa powder and low-fat milk. Whip up a chocolate mousse with 12 ounces of firm tofu, 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon of vanilla and non-caloric sweetener.
Or, even better and easier, have a daily delicious, low-calorie chocolate protein shake and be slim, happy and healthier than ever!
My recommendation for a low-calorie chocolate protein is part of the Feel Better Program.
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Note: The information contained on this website is not intended to be prescriptive. Any attempt to diagnose or treat an illness should come under the direction of a physician who is familiar with nutritional therapy.