Is Chocolate Healthy For You?

Everything about Chocolate: Origin, Types, Benefits, Consumption

Let’s admit it! All of us love chocolate, but is it healthy for you and your body?

Be it at birthday parties or any other celebration, we can’t help but reach out to a chocolate or two to munch on. We don’t really keep track of how much chocolate we consume on a daily basis as it’s something we like to indulge in every now and then. But did you know that when consumed in the right form and amount, chocolate can actually be healthy for you? 

Origin of Chocolate

Let’s first talk about the origin of chocolate.

Cultivation, consumption, and cultural use of cacao were extensive in Mesoamerica where the cacao tree is native. When pollinated, the seed of the cacao tree eventually forms a kind of sheath, or ear, averaging 20″ long, hanging from the tree trunk itself. Within the sheath are 30 to 40 brownish-red almond-shaped beans embedded in a sweet viscous pulp. While the beans themselves are bitter due to the alkaloids within them, the sweet pulp may have been the first element of chocolate to be consumed by humans. (Source: www.wikipedia.com)

Different types of Chocolate

Is Chocolate Healthy For You

There are many varieties of Chocolate. These include – 

Dark Chocolate – Also known as plain chocolate, this is the healthiest form of chocolate as it has the highest cocoa content. Consuming one or two ounces (30-60 grams) of this a day is extremely good for health, say studies and doctors.

Milk Chocolate – A combination of chocolate and milk powder, milk chocolate is the most popular form of chocolate. Most chocolates available in the market are milk chocolates. 

Raw Chocolate – This is a form of chocolate that has not been processed, heated or mixed with any other ingredient.

White Chocolate – A mixture of milk, sugar and cocoa butter, white chocolate lacks many compounds which are found in milk and dark chocolate.

Baking Chocolate – This chocolate is used for baking and preparing desserts.

Modelling Chocolate – is a chocolate paste prepared from cocoa and syrups like glucose and corn syrup.

Organic Chocolate – As the name goes, organic chocolate is prepared from cocoa beans that have been grown without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

Couverture Chocolate – Chocolate with the highest percentage of cocoa butter.

Compound Chocolate – This is obtained when chocolate is combined with tropical or hydrogenated fats in place of cocoa butter.

Benefits of eating Chocolate: Is it healthy or not?

Cocoa contains a variety of minerals like magnesium, zinc, copper, phosphorus and zinc among other antioxidants. These antioxidants help lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis, which is one of the leading causes of heart attacks. It also increases good cholesterol levels in the body. Theobromine, a compound in dark chocolate, has the same properties as caffeine when it comes to boosting energy levels. Many serious diseases caused by prolonged inflammation can be kept at bay with cocoa, which has anti-inflammatory property. A study also suggests that cocoa can regulate the bacterial composition of the intestine.

Dark Chocolate is super healthy!

The flavonoids in dark chocolate can be healthy and stimulate the endothelium, the lining of arteries, to produce nitric oxide. This is then responsible for relaxing the vessels which increases the vessel diameter, which in turn improves blood flow and prevents increase in blood pressure. Increase in blood flow to the brain is associated with improved attention, better memory, increased focus and reduced chances of dementia among the elderly. Improved blood flow can also help in decreasing the development of blood clots. Additionally, since cocoa contains stimulants, it also improves brain function.

The bioactive compounds in dark chocolate can also be great for your skin. The flavonols can protect against sun damage, improve blood flow to the skin, and increase skin density and hydration. The minimal erythemal dose (MED) is the minimum amount of UVB rays required to cause redness in the skin 24 hours after exposure. Studies have shown that MED can increase and even double after consuming high-flavonol dark chocolate or cocoa for 12 weeks. In simpler terms, chocolate helps protect your skin better from the sun.

One study found that chocolate could reduce body weight and BMI in healthy individuals, if taken at 30 grams a day or more between four and eight weeks. Another says the treat could help obese individuals at risk of insulin resistance by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. More research on this topic is still going on and definite results are awaited. Research has also shown an increase in dopamine and serotonin after the consumption of chocolate. These hormones also known as the ‘feel good hormones’ are known to improve mood and induce pleasure. These effects can explain why one never gets tired of eating chocolate.

How much chocolate should one consume?

As they say, too much of anything is bad. The same holds true for chocolate. Excessive consumption of chocolate can have harmful effects on the body, like weight gain, which can lead to cardiovascular and other diseases. Hence, one must not eat more than 30 to 60 grams of chocolate in a day. 

But when consumed in limits, chocolate can be extremely beneficial. So go ahead and indulge yourself in a little treat every now and then and be on the road to good health. 

Word of caution – Please note that chocolate can’t be used to treat serious illnesses. It’s best to consult a doctor or seek medical help for chronic diseases.

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