Stay Slim with Chocolates

January 14, 2008 at 11:11 pm Leave a comment

Chocolate — may well qualify as a health food. The two principal varieties are milk chocolate, and dark chocolate.

While high in saturated fat, cocoa butter — the fat that comes from the cocoa bean — is principally a source of an 18-carbon fatty acid called stearic acid. Unlike other saturated fats, stearic acid does not raise blood cholesterol levels, and does not contribute to the risk of heart disease. Milk chocolate contains both the fatty acids that come from the cocoa bean itself, and those that come from milk. Milk chocolate also contains a fairy amount of stearic acid, but the milk fat it contains contributes palmitic acid, and myristic acid, which do raise cholesterol.

So far, this means that the fat in dark chocolate is harmless, while the fat in milk chocolate is a bit less so. But not doing harm is not the same as actually doing good. Dark chocolate may actually do your health good.

Solid dark chocolate, or liquid cocoa, improve blood flow and the ability of blood vessels to dilate. All of these are signs that dark chocolate can, and probably does, reduce heart disease risk.

The “active ingredient” in dark chocolate is a class of antioxidants called flavanoids. Dark chocolate is one of the most concentrated sources of these potent antioxidants known. There are more flavanoid antioxidants in dark chocolate than in wine, green tea, or even white tea.

Dark chocolate is also a concentrated source of magnesium, fiber and arginine — all of which probably contribute something to its beneficial health effects. Arginine is an amino acid used by the cells that line our blood vessels to make a chemical called nitric oxide, which causes blood vessels to dilate and blood flow to increase.
When you get that irresistible chocolate urge, satisfy it with the dark chocolate. You’ll get your chocolate “fix,” but with better nutrition, and generally less sugar and fewer calories. It’s worth noting that this same sort of substitution works in many food categories, allowing you to eat the type of food you like, while improving your nutrition at the same time.
Of course, too much of anything, even a good thing, is not a good idea. Dark chocolate is very nutritious, but it is a concentrated source of calories. Avoiding over-indulging, or weight gain will cancel out the benefits.

The principle that eating well is best achieved by making well-informed choices within any given food category, rather than abandoning categories of foods.

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Entry filed under: Supplements and Nutritions. Tags: , , , , .

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