Tag Archives: Nutritional

Is Chocolate The Next Health Food?

I could start like any 12 step program and say “My name is Spisharam and I am a Chocoholic”. If you love chocolate you know what I am talking about, I can pretty much eat chocolate any time of the day and it does not matter what kind. If it looks like chocolate, smells like it and tastes like it; I am in 100%. Growing up it was kind of part and parcel of who I was, my friends from college still talk about my chocolate binges and how many a junior bribed me to get their record book drawings done by passing me a chocolate 🙂 Well I was not complaining as long as the chocolates kept coming.

Then as years passed and pounds started piling up (which incidentally I could say my body is pretty much 50-60% chocolate if what I ate really did cause me to put on weight!). I was waging a losing war with chocolate until one day my better half started buying me chocolates when ever he went to the store. Now my cravings have actually gone down, I don’t feel like sneaking in a chocolate bar as I stand with the cart in line to checkout my grocery (I have learned to say “later” to the chocolates who always call out to me from all those shelves in their snazzy covers :)) I still love chocolate it is just that I don’t feel guilty about it as I feel I am allowed to have chocolate irrespective of what the weighing scale says. So I am pretty much at peace with the Chocolate binges and then I see this article on the ACS website (American Chemical Society) titled “Chocolate the next health food? or is it?” whetted my appetite enough for me to want to check it out.

I have always wondered if it was just the caffeine in chocolate which made me feel like I had to have chocolate (whatever I was feeling chocolate makes me feel goood 🙂 ) See for me not having coffee is easy, I really don’t care much for it at all and I can go on and off coffee when ever I want to, not so with chocolate.

So I started reading the article and I catch myself smiling about “Anandamides”  (root from the Sanskrit word “Ananda” meaning Bliss) the Bliss molecules in the brain which seem to stay active longer when we eat chocolate! Not only do chocolates supposedly have it in them, they keep the ones in our system last longer, now I know why a chocolate high lasts for so long 🙂

Emmanuelle diTomaso, an assistant biologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Mass., and Daniele Piomelli, professor of pharmacology
at the University of California-Irvine, have shown that chemicals in chocolate may inhibit this natural breakdown of anandamide. Then, there is phenylethylamine (PEA), a natural brain chemical which stimulates the parts of the brain that keep you alert and mimics the brain chemistry of a person in love.

Recent studies have shown that cocoa is rich in anti-oxidants called polyphenols and another chemical called flavanols – which is what provides wine, tea, nuts etc with their health benefits!

Fun Facts About Chocolate:

  • Scientists have discovered that chocolate was invented at least 3,100 years ago in Central America and not as the sweet treat people now crave, but as a celebratory beer-like beverage and status symbol.
  • The chocolate enjoyed by civilizations like the Maya and Aztecs was made from ground cacao seeds, producing a spicy, frothy drink like beer.
  • The Spanish brought cacao back to Europe in the 16th century and many chocolate innovations have occurred in the ensuing centuries.
  • In the 1850s, Englishman Joseph Fry changed cocoa to chocolate by adding more cocoa butter, rather than hot water, to cocoa powder and sugar. The world’s first solid chocolate was born.
  • In 1875, Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle added condensed milk to solid chocolate, creating a milk chocolate bar.
  • By 1907, Milton Hershey’s factory was spitting out 33 million kisses per day.
  • In the world wars Chocolates were a part of the soldiers rations!
  • The word ‘Chocolate’ comes from the Aztec word, ‘cacahuatl’ or ‘xocolatl’. This means ‘bitter water’
  • The Mayans and Aztecs believed that the Cocoa Beans originated from Paradise and would bring wisdom and power to anyone consuming them.
  • Chocolates could be fatal for pets due to the presence of Theobromine which over stimulates cardiac and nervous systems.
  • Chocolate has over 500 flavor components. This is double the amount found in strawberry and vanilla.
  • Chocolate is a great economy booster. Annual world consumption of cocoa beans averages approximately 600,000 tons per year. Consumers worldwide spend more than $20 billion a year on Chocolate.

Some interesting results from the research:

  • The scientists discovered that in hamsters, cocoa powder at a dose equivalent to two dark chocolate bars per day significantly inhibited atherosclerosis, a type of heart disease in which fat clogs up arteries, and raised the levels of good cholesterol.
  • Ian Mcdonald, professor of metabolic physiology at The University of Nottingham, and colleagues have shown that people who consumed a flavanol-rich cocoa beverage had increased blood flow in their brains. This result suggests that cocoa flavanols could be used to prevent vascular impairments in the brain resulting from, say, a stroke.
  • You might think that chocolate causes acne, decays teeth, and makes you fat. Not so. No current research connects specific foods to skin
    problems. Chocolate husks contain chemicals that prevent tooth decay (although they don’t offset the added sugar), and too much food
    causes weight gain.
  • Chocolate straight from the tree has more beneficial chemicals than possibly any other food, including blueberries, red wine, or green tea.
    They are not only antioxidant, but anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-cancerous, and anti-viral.

The BAD NEWS – Cocoa butter is essentially all fat. There are three major kinds: a “bad-for-you” saturated fat called palmitic acid;
oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat; and stearic acid, part of which later converts to oleic acid in the liver. Overall, one-third of chocolate’s fat is known to be unhealthy. All three kinds of fats produce high amounts of calories in the body, although they do not cause an increase in blood cholesterol when consumed in chocolate.

So as long as you enjoy your chocolate sensibly it is ALL good! 🙂 Want the most for your calories? And your dollars? Check out the nutrition information on the labels. The fewer additives, the better. Meanwhile, dark chocolate or chocolate nibs are a healthy alternative to milk chocolate or chocolate syrup.

So, is chocolate a healthy food, a luxury item, or junk? It can be all three, just not all at the same time. The choice up to us.When we make a judgment call as to the kind of chocolate we eat, we decide whether it is healthy or not. Like the report says commonsense – read the label, enjoy your chocolate!

I am yet to meet a chocolate I did not like, but I have decided dark would be the best way for me to go.

Go easy! Go dark! Go chocolate!

Read the Entire Report on the ACS website HERE