Chocolate- a healthy treat? :)

Three exams down, two more to go! My week hasn’t been overly exciting; my days typically are consisting of me studying most of the day, climbing and occasionally working. My roommate and I have brought our kitchen table into our living room so we can study on our comfy couches with a table (best of both worlds :p). Less than a week left, cannot wait!!

Here’s a pic of me at a competition a couple of months ago :)

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So anyways, with the holiday season approaching (and my exams looming) I figured I would talk about Chocolate! Hope you enjoy! :)

Historically, chocolate has been used for medicinal purposes; by the 1600s it was used for both taste (obviously) and to treat disorders including angina and heart pain. It was only within the last 50 years that its use has shifted to primarily a confectionary one.

Why is chocolate good for me? Chocolate is derived from the cocoa bean and has many health benefits which are associated with its flavonoid, a class of plant metabolites, content. The most abundant flavonoid in chocolate is flavonol; dark chocolate is one of the richest sources for flavonol (responsible for its bitterness) at about 510mg per 100g! Flavonol is known for its antioxidant capacity and has been shown to reduce risks for heart disease.

By 2030, an estimated 23.6 million people will die because of heart disorders according to the World Health Organization. Today, about one fifth of the world is thought to have metabolic syndrome, resulting in increased risks for diabetes and heart disease. Diet is the key factor for heart disorder development; again, flavonol in cocoa is shown to reduce the risks. In a meta-analysis, higher chocolate consumption was associated with a 37% reduction of heart disease risk, 31% reduction of diabetes risk and 29% reduction in stroke risk according to the studies analyzed. Flavonols have been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol oxidation, increase HDL cholesterol, and decrease blood pressure. They have also been shown to affect eicosanoids by increasing prostacyclin (which inhibits blood clotting) and decreasing leukotrienes (which increases vasoconstriction and inflammation).

So what are some factors for the flavonol content in chocolate? Processing is a major player; bean selection, fermentation, roasting and alkalizing are factors in the concentration. Increased time for fermentation and roasting (as well as increased temperatures) will result in more flavonols lost. Alkalization, which is a Dutch process and is also optional, also results in very large losses.

Some other things to take into account before mowing down on a box of chocolates; chocolate is high in calories (about 2100 kJ (500 kcal)/100 g). As a result, increased consumption will cause weight gain which is a factor for hypertension, diabetes, and cardiometabolic disorders. The high sugar content should also be considered, lower sugar chocolates would improve outcomes associated. Chocolate is also high in fat; stearic acid (the fat in chocolate) is unique though in that it doesn’t increase blood cholesterol like other short chain fatty acids.

Wait, chocolate isn’t vegan? Chocolate is actually vegan but the chocolate we see in grocery stores tends to have many additives including milk. A good quality one however will only have cocoa, cocoa butter, lecithin and sugar and therefore be vegan. Lesser quality ones tend to have a lot of filler ingredients (including milk). So there you have it, anyone can enjoy chocolate (but some may have to pay a bit more for it :p).

Anyways, that was my feel-good post of the day. Hope you all have a good rest of the weekend! :)
Jen

American Heart Association. (2010) Heart disease and stroke statistics 2010 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation;121:e46-215.

Buitrago-Lopez A, Sanderson J, Johnson L, Warnakula S, Wood A, Angelantonio E, Franco O. (2011) Chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. ; 343: d4488.

Corti R, Flammer AJ, Hollenberg NK, Luscher TF. (2009)Cocoa and cardiovascular health. Circulation;119:1433-42.

Sudano I, Flammer AJ, Roas S, Enseleit F, Ruschitzka F, Corti R, Noll G. (2012) Cocoa, Blood Pressure, and Vascular Function. Curr Hypertens Rep.(4):279-84.

World Health Organization. (2011) Cardiovascular diseases. Fact sheet No 317. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs317/fr/index.html.

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51 comments on “Chocolate- a healthy treat? :)

  1. cbloving says:

    Thanks for your continued insight — and climbing.

  2. there was a similar post on bbc talking about intelligence and relations to countries that have the largest number of nobel laureates :)

  3. BeautyGraceStrength says:

    For me, the darker the chocolate, the better! I love the super dark stuff that’s 85% cocoa solids. It’s hardly sweet at all. And, it’s so rich, I can only eat a square or two at a time. Hurray for chocolate!

  4. Great pos! Thanks for the info!

  5. socalmark says:

    Love your blog! I follow a few and read many, and your is very thoughtful and the only one that references research using APA citation standards, and definitely the only one siting meta-analysis. Reminds me of graduate school in a good way. Keep climbing!!!

  6. frankoshanko says:

    That’s some impressive rationalizing there, Miss Chocoholic! I’m guessing, of course. Really, I just know me! Chocolate is my favorite treat of all! So I try for moderation, a challenge for an addictive type of person. Your climbing muscles look awesome! :)

  7. drumsdw98 says:

    Awesome, Il have to get some chocolate today!

  8. Ha! I just wrote about how I NEED chocolate to write! And then I complained about healthy dark chocolate being too bitter. :) I’m so glad to have the actual information about why chocolate makes me more creative. The chemical that makes chocolate good for you is different from the alkaloid theobromine that hurts dogs, right? Theobromine apparently affects your heart too. I wonder what the relationship is between the two. Thanks for your excellent post.

  9. Must Love Foods says:

    Really like this !! Best of luck with exams

  10. bezzymates says:

    Chocolate was said to be an anphrodisiac for Aztec lord Montezuma. Who knew?? Apparently he would consume a lot each day.

  11. Bob Lee says:

    Love this post. Love the picture of you scaling the wall. Love your site. and … I too wish you Good Luck with all your exams.

    Bob

  12. Great info about chocolate…maybe our best bet is to simply grow the bean ourselves, at least we’ll know there’s no additional additives like unwanted sugars. bUT IT STILL TASTE GREAT! Do well on your finals…been down that road long ago.

  13. Argus says:

    Spouse and I have socked away a fair bit of choccie in our time and thrive on it. No, we’re not butterballs, so I guess choc is getting an undeserved bad press. Specifically I like to have a goodly sprinkle of chili powder stirred into my cocoa drinks and chomp like a ravening wolf on chili choc in bar form.
    The enemy as far as I am concerned is sugar … but we make allowances for the ones we love, and we love choc~!

  14. chiefmd says:

    great picture and great blog!

  15. I just spent far too much money at a Lindt store (apparently there are whole stores of the stuff… Who knew?) some of it is pure candy and a treat. But I usually incorporate 85-90% dark chocolate into even my strict diets. Love the taste and the antioxidants :)

  16. Great article, I love to snack on dark chocolate everyday, it definitely helps me feel happier the next day. I’ve tried being a vegetarian for 6 years and found my immune system dropped and was sick all the time. I went back to eating meat and it helped a lot. Why do you think that is? I much preferred vegetarian. I also find my body craves carbs do you recommend anything that could curb that? Thanks,

    • There could be a number of reasons… Where you getting enough vitamin b12 and iron (non-heme iron is less bioavailable than heme iron)? How about omega 3s? Some people dont fare well on vegetarian and vegan diets for more genetic reasons (e.g. enyme defficiencies). By carbs do you mean grains?

  17. Marika says:

    Couldn’t walk away from a title that includes the word chocolate! Thanks for this. Glad you recent like on my blog lead me to this great resource. I find it so tough to know what nutritional advice is outdated and which is worth following. Will keep track of your posts.

    • Glad you stopped by :)… There’s a lot of misleading information out there on nutrition- I find it’s best to stay critical as a consumer. With that being said, I try to use all recent research from pubmed (an excellent tool for finding good research journals). Thanks for the comment :)

  18. wow thanks for this !! just the info i needed to feel a little better about all the dark chocolate i indulge in ! i cant go a day without it ;) !

    • Dr Adrian says:

      Hi Jen. Great blog. Great reference sources. How do you find the time to write and study for exams at the same time? What I do is I use parts of my research papers for the degree I am working on in my blog posts. (I kill two 🐦🐦 birds with one stone)
      Keep up the good work! 😃
      Adrian Lunick

      • Some of the posts I’ve written have used parts of my school papers but the majority are relatively new. It usually takes me between 1-3 hours to write a new post though (and I aim for 2/week); I’ve gotten pretty good at gathering information from posting so frequently :). I use my blog as a study break or (more often) a source for procrastinating my school work lol.
        Thank you, I’m glad you like it:D

  19. Bev says:

    Nice to know my guilty pleasure is actually good for me! Great info!

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  21. misthe says:

    it’s amazing how something so yummy can actually have so many secret benefits, thanks for sharing it, jen. perhaps the education system should consider introducing some daily chocolate intake for students to optimise their cognitive function – i’m sure that would be welcomed by students all over ! in fact, i wrote something similar recently, hope you enjoy it too :) http://itsnotscrubs.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/mms-food-for-the-mentally-elite/

  22. Sinéad says:

    Guilt free chocolate time awaits: ) Here’s a recipe for you that I think you may like very much. Healthy chocolate Brownies! http://feelingfood.co.uk/2012/12/12/choc-brownie-christmas-trees/

    I was wondering if you get a mo, please could your read my post and help me clear up the
    cocoa v’s cacao debate, you’ve touched on it in your post,

    ” Processing is a major player; bean selection, fermentation, roasting and alkalizing are factors … will result in more flavonols lost.”

    PS – I love your blog, it’s so informative and relevant.

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  26. mymaria2012 says:

    Thanks for the chocolate lesson. Interesting. BUT, heres the question that I’ve never gotten an answer to: Why are dogs not suppose to eat chocolate?

  27. amanda says:

    I love your blog. And now I love it more because I can say that chocolate is healthy hehe! Thanks for all the info!!

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