You’ve heard it, right? The best news of the century has to be that chocolate is actually good for the health. But before you go down to the store and load up on your favorite candy bars, here are a few tips to ensure you get the most benefits out of your chocolate consumption.
Keep in the Dark – that’s right, the healthiest forms of chocolate are the darkest. If you are a milk chocolate or even a white chocolate lover, your health is likely to be more compromised by the unhealthy fats and sugars rather than benefited by the antioxidants in cocoa. Several studies involving dark vs. milk or white chocolate showed far greater benefits for consuming moderate amounts of dark chocolate. For example, those consuming dark chocolate daily had their blood pressure levels drop, while those eating white chocolate saw no change. Another study showed higher levels of antioxidants in participants’ blood after eating dark chocolate versus milk chocolate. The reason? Dark chocolate has more of the antioxidant flavonoids than its lighter cousins.
Don’t Dutch Treat – a common form of cocoa powder is the Dutch-processed type. This process involves treating the cocoa with alkali to reduce its acidity. Unfortunately, this also reduces the number of flavonoids, making it less healthful than its natural form.
Keep it under Control – just because chocolate is good for you, it is not healthful to gorge on it. Three ounces per day is a reasonable amount and comparable to the amount used in most studies.
- Keep it Simple – check out the labels of most candy bars, and you will find they are chock full of not-so-healthy ingredients. Even though they do contain some chocolate, it is so minimal compared to the rest of the ingredients that potential benefits are drowned in sugars and saturated fats. Wholesome chocolate is the kind with the fewest ingredients, the least amount of sugar (natural sugar is even better), and the highest cacao percentage.
If all this talk of chocolate has stirred up some chocolate cravings, there is good news. Follow the four steps above and you can enjoy your chocolate knowing that it may be good for your heart: lowering heart disease, LDL, and blood pressure; good for your brain: it increases blood flow to the brain, which may improve cognition; and good for your teeth: it contains a substance that helps to harden tooth enamel.
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