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Is Chocolate A New Health Food?

Could it be possible that our beloved chocolate may actually be good for us? This is the nutrition news we have all been waiting for. So here is the scoop on chocolate and its health benefits. Yes, you read right, health benefits!

Recent studies show that cocoa and dark chocolate with a high cocoa content contain many heart-healthy antioxidants. They contain a compound called flavonoids which may help prevent the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels in the blood. There is also some evidence that these flavonoids may prevent certain cancers.

It is important that we are all on the same page here, not all chocolate have these health benefits. The healthy flavonoids found in chocolate are found in the cocoa butter and cocoa solids. Milk chocolate is diluted with milk and sugar and contains little amounts of these substances, therefore providing fewer health benefits. So, for those of you who love dark chocolate this is your lucky day! The darker the chocolate, the higher the cocoa content and the more antioxidants it contains. The quality of the chocolate you consume is also important. The cocoa butter is quite pricey so less expensive brands will replace the cocoa butter with milk fats and hydrogenated oils which are bad for our health. Look for high quality chocolates with their main ingredients being cocoa butter and cocoa solids. Unsweetened cocoa powder is one of the purest forms of chocolate you can eat and is lower in fat and calories than other chocolates.

Although this is great news for all chocolate lovers, donít forget that most chocolate (unless you use unsweetened cocoa powder) does still contain sugar and saturated fat.
And please remember calories. An ounce of chocolate contains around 135 calories. So enjoy a cup of hot cocoa or an ounce of chocolate once in awhile to contribute to your health and not to your waistline!

© Meri Raffetto, 2004

About the Author

Meri Raffetto is a Registered Dietitian and a recognized professional in the area of nutrition and wellness. She has developed online weight management programs to help people get off of diets and get into way of life. For more information or to sign up for our free newsletter, visit www.reallivingnutrition.com.

Meri Raffetto RD