Chocolate is good for you?

Chocolate is good for you?

There is much truth to the statement that chocolate is good for you - however there is more to this statement than meets the eye.

Chocolate has its origins almost three thousand years ago, in Central and South America. It came about as a hot drink, used as a stimulant in the warrior, nobility and priesthood classes. It is only more recently that scientists have been able to identify the substances that cause this effect.

Chocolate health benefits

Let's first look at the health benefits of chocolate, Flavanoids are a type of antioxidant that is found in chocolate. It is believed that these can help to elevate nitric oxide levels in the blood, and this in turn helps to lower blood pressure. The effect is similar in fact to taking a small daily dose of aspirin.  Antioxidants can also help rid the body of free radicals-molecules that are thought to cause cancer.

Not only that, but the flavanoids in chocolate act on the body in a similar way to tea. They act to reduce cholesterol by slowing the oxidation of this substance, whilst at the same time helping to thin the blood and thus reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack. These three factors mean that good quality dark chocolate is good for the arteries.

Helping you to feel good is another benefit of chocolate, thanks to its causing the release of endorphins. Other chemicals within chocolate are attributed with feeling good but are found in so small an amount as to be debatable in their effect but include theobromine and tryptophan.

The type of chocolate that you consume is all important. The flavanoids and other beneficial compounds are found in the cocoa solids, not the cocoa butter. Dark chocolate contains the most solids and least cocoa butter, where as milk chocolate contains a blend with more cocoa butter and white chocolate contains no solids at all, only the cocoa butter. Thus the darker the chocolate the higher the concentration of these substances you will be getting.

It's not all good news

There is of course a down side to chocolate that cannot be ignored. Though the darkest forms, most pure forms of chocolate have less cocoa butter or other fats in them, and also less sugar, this is not the case with the majority of store bought chocolate confectionery today. Instead, the vast majority of chocolate bars today have cocoa butter or other fats added back into them during the manufacturing process and often large amounts of sugar too. This may be in the form of caramels or other sweet substances contained within the bar, or within the chocolate itself.

This means that there is a high risk of weight gain from the over consumption of chocolate as with any other food that is calorie dense. Additionally there is a risk of addiction to chocolate because of the good feelings that it can induce. There is no know or accepted amount required for benefits to be seen at this time.

Ultimately whether you view chocolate as good for you will depend upon your ability to control your own impulses-that is, your ability to consume it only in moderation, as well as the type of chocolate that you choose to buy.

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