If you are a fan, then you will be pleased to know that chocolate has enjoyed some time in the nutrition spotlight. However, you may want to think twice before reaching for that candy bar. Despite its health benefits, chocolate is high in calories. Continue reading to find out how your body and health can gain the benefits without the pounds.
What Is Chocolate?
Did you ever wonder where chocolate comes from? The seeds of the cacao tree provided ancient cultures like the Aztecs with delicious cacao, which they used to make beverages. Cacao beans are first fermented, dried, and then roasted. Inside the bean you will find cacao nibs, which produce cacao butter and a dark cocoa mass. Cocoa butter doesn’t contain any cacao solids, and is what we know to be “white chocolate.” Cocoa, however, is used in most of the chocolate we consume today. Unsweetened chocolate contains both cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Milk chocolate contains cocoa powder, cocoa butter, sugar, and milk powder or condensed milk.
Until recently, chocolate has mostly been considered to be unhealthy. However, recent research has demonstrated that cacao is rich in antioxidants and minerals such as magnesium. Theobromine and phenethylamine are two compounds in chocolate that are associated with serotonin, the “happy” chemical. In addition, the Journal of the American Medical Association cites that dark chocolate lowers blood pressure. The flavanols in chocolate may also reduce LDL oxidation, inflammation, and improve arterial blood flow. In another study, a group of adults with chronic fatigue syndrome were given 1.5 ounces of 85 percent cocoa dark chocolate daily for eight weeks. After eight weeks, the individuals reported less fatigue – and no weight gain.
Choose Chocolate Wisely
Does this mean that you can eat as much chocolate as your heart and taste buds desire? Well, not exactly, because not all chocolate is created equal.
First of all, to reap the full health benefits, you need to choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate, as the milk may prevent the body from absorbing the antioxidants. Go for chocolate with at least 72 percent cocoa, and make sure that it doesn’t contain any partially hydrogenated fat. Remember, an entire bar of chocolate is not a single serving size! One ounce a day is plenty.
Also, keep in mind that chocolate with the greatest amount of nonfat cocoa solids will provide the most antioxidants, while milk chocolate, chocolate syrup, and white chocolate rank the lowest in flavanoids. If your chocolate bar develops a white coating on the surface, this indicates fat and sugar changes. This “bloom” effect may change the flavor and texture, but it is still considered safe to consume. The lowest calorie and lowest-fat form of chocolate is unsweetened cocoa. Just three tablespoons contain 60 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, and three grams of fiber.
If you choose a regular candy bar for your sugar consumption, keep in mind that most milk chocolates have a large amount of sugar and most of the excess sugar in our diet is stored as fat. This large amount of sugar can not only affect your risk of diabetes, but also your immune system and blood pressure. Try to find chocolates that use honey, maple syrup, or stevia as a sweetener.
May you live long, live strong, and live happy!
Dr. Mao Shing Ni, best known as Dr. Mao, is a bestselling author, doctor of Oriental Medicine and board certified anti-aging expert. He has recently appeared on “The Ricki Lake Show,” “Dr. Oz,” and contributes to Yahoo Health and The Huffington Post. Dr. Mao practices acupuncture, nutrition, and Chinese medicine with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica, Newport Beach, and Pasadena. Dr. Mao and his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni, founded the Tao of Wellness more than 25 years ago in addition to founding Yo San University in Marina del Rey. To make an appointment for evaluation and treatment please call 310.917.2200 or you can email Dr. Mao at [email protected] To subscribe to his tip-filled newsletter please visit www.taoofwellness.com.