Without question, pure chocolate is a healthy food, and can be a great “supplement” to your diet, but it all depends on what chocolate you consume.
Buy the wrong chocolate and you are very likely harming your system more than helping. Most store chocolates are highly processed and full of fat and calories, so you have to be smart and careful when you shop for chocolate. At the end of the post we offer some hints about buying chocolate.
Natural chocolate is so healthy principally because it is full of antioxidants, particularly chemical compounds called flavanols. These compounds are also found in many other healthy foods such as deeply colored berries, peanuts, onions, red wine, and green tea.
Antioxidants work basically by helping our body clean up the “waste products” of cellular reactions that occur naturally in our body. We might consider these waste products as rust, and antioxidants as substances that absorb that “rust” and convert it into non-harmful compounds.
Chocolate also works by increasing the number of mitochondria in our cells. Mitochondria are the inner parts of our cells that can be considered a little power generators; they make power so each of our cells can function. Studies have shown chocolate can be an ally to improve your workout performance, decreasing fatigue.
As published in March 2014 The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, chocolate also seems to act directly on the microorganisms that occupy your lower intestine, changing the bacteria from more harmful types to the healthier lactobacillus type (found in some yogurts). There is actually a healthy fermentation of chocolate that occurs in your intestine!
Many scientific studies have shown that dark chocolate eaters have better blood vessels, lower blood pressure, fewer strokes, better exercise resistance, brain function, as well as improved insulin function, making diabetes less likely. Dark chocolate is good for the heart, giving you a healthier cholesterol profile (with higher indices of the beneficial HDL type).
A study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine (US) showed that heart attack survivors who ate a small amount of dark chocolate two or more times per week had much lower risk of suffering a second serious heart attack.
Buy the right type of chocolate
You would think that in Brazil, a country that produces so much cocoa, it would be easy to buy healthy chocolate. It is easy to buy chocolate, yes, but most of it not healthy at all. The problem is that the good chemicals, the antioxidants, are removed or degraded from the chocolate the more it is processed.
The less processed the chocolate, the healthier it is, but also the more bitter it is, so to enjoy healthy chocolate, you might have to train your taste buds!
Processing adds sugars, fats and other stabilizers, and might make chocolate more tasty, but the only type of chocolate that is healthy is the dark variety. The rest, you might consider as candy.
Ironically, in most developed countries—countries that produce actually no chocolate at all (such as the US)—it is very easy to buy dark chocolate (70% or more cocoa), and not so expensive. Here in Brazil, it is becoming easier to find dark chocolate, but unfortunately these bars are priced much higher than the unhealthy chocolates that you find everywhere.
If you want to eat a bit of chocolate every day for your health, seek out the bars that are at least 70% cocoa. If you really are a chocolate lover, go to the Facebook page of your favorite chocolate makers, and demand more healthy, reasonably priced chocolate for Brazil!
Read also in ProcuraMed:
Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)