Chocolate, a Valentine’s Day staple for many people, has a long and rich history. Cocoa farming dates back nearly 2,500 years when the Olmec and Mayan people began cultivating the crop to infuse into a hot beverage called “Xocolatl.” These cocoa-based drinks, referred to as “the drink of the gods,” were believed to improve stamina and overall health. However, this beverage was a blend of cocoa beans, chili peppers, and water – this is a very different product from the candy chocolate we enjoy today. In this article, we will explore the myth: can chocolate actually be good for you?
Chocolate: The Good
While not all types of chocolate offer health benefits, there is solid evidence to suggest that there are indeed benefits to eating dark chocolate. The main ingredient of dark chocolate, cocoa, is believed to reduce risk factors for heart disease. Additionally, cocoa beans contain flavanols such as epicatechin and catechin, which may help improve heart health, lower blood pressure, and help protect your cells against inflammation. Dark chocolate also contains a good mix of minerals, including iron, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, and copper. Lastly, dark chocolate contains theobromine, a compound that is similar to caffeine that provides a boost of energy and mood improvement.
Chocolate: The Bad
While there are many health benefits that dark chocolate can offer, not all chocolate is the same. The primary health benefits that can be found in dark chocolate are due to its high cocoa content, meaning that milk chocolate offers significantly fewer health benefits, and white chocolate offers no known health benefits. Commercially produced chocolate contains added fats and sugars to sweeten the flavor, but these additives significantly increase the calories without adding substantial nutritional value. Excessive consumption of chocolate can result in problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Even dark chocolate should be enjoyed in moderation, as it still contains a fair amount of sugar and calories. To enjoy the most benefits from your dark chocolate, limit yourself to a maximum of three ounces per week.
If you just can’t get enough chocolate in your life but you also want to limit your caloric intake, there are plenty of alternatives you could look to substitute for chocolate. Carob powder tastes very similar to cocoa while offering a low-fat, high fiber alternative. Additionally, you can add cocoa nibs (broken-up cocoa beans that are not fully processed into powder) into your morning cereal, yogurt, or trail mix to add a chocolatey flavor that is still low in calories.
While visiting the dentist for routine cleanings is always important, this is especially true if you regularly eat chocolate. Chocolate consumption combined with poor oral health can result in cavities, which can lead to much bigger health concerns if left unaddressed. Ultimately, it seems that the rumored health benefits of chocolate are true but specific to dark chocolate. So, as long as you are eating it in moderation, keep enjoying your favorite sweet snack!
Make sure to keep in touch with your local insurance agent and routinely go to the doctor and dentist to keep your health and wellness in check.