By: Elizabeth Rahavi, RD Date: 2/15/10
My heart sings at the sight of chocolate. Though my gut instinct is to restrict myself to one small treat, I often find myself indulging in one of life’s greatest pleasures: the sweet taste of chocolate. With that in mind, you and I both may be pleased to know that chocolate, famous for its rich taste, sweet flavor, and melt-in-your-mouth texture, may actually be beneficial to your health, in small doses.
Cocoa is a functional food.
Functional Foods may provide benefits beyond basic nutrition, so by eating these foods we are making a conscious decision to better our health.
Cocoa is an antioxidant.
Just in time for National Heart Health month, it’s good to know that “More Cocoa means Higher Antioxidant Power!” Antioxidants may help to protect your body’s cells against free radicals, which can damage your cells, and may play a role in reducing the risk of heart disease and boosting immune function. They are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and, oh yes, cocoa!
Cocoa is naturally rich in flavonoids.
Flavonoids are compounds found naturally in fruits, vegetables, herbs, grains, nuts, red wine, and of course cocoa. They carry antioxidant properties which may help reduce the risk of heart disease, hypertension, and other diseases linked to immune function.
Before you throw caution to the wind here are some things to remember about eating chocolate:
To reap the benefits of the antioxidants in chocolate you should look for dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa, about 55 percent and above.
Chocolate still contains fat, which means that it can contain a higher number of calories. If you are watching, or trying to maintain, your weight remember to work a chocolate treat into your overall calorie intake for the day.
More research is needed to determine how much chocolate we have to consume in order to reap the benefits that chocolate provides. To get the most benefit, consider mixing and matching all of the different foods that contain flavonoids by eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts.
So, yes, the exciting news is that chocolate may be beneficial to our health! However, rather than a green light to overindulge, this is merely a reminder that even “treats” may offer health benefits.
Do you remember the first time you had a piece of chocolate? Tell me about it.