Does Chocolate Really Have Health Benefits?
Learn about the latest research, including the most recent recommendations from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, on the health benefits of consuming dark chocolate in moderation. You will learn about why it can help your health and chocolate recommendations.
- [Stacy] Does dark chocolate really have health benefits?
It sounds too good to be true but the latest research suggests that it does.
In this video, you'll learn about the most recent recommendations from the U.S dietary guidelines on the health benefits of consuming dark chocolate in moderation.
Chocolate containing 70% or more cocoa, known as dark, bittersweet, or semisweet chocolate, has shown beneficial effects.
However, 2016 research shows that chocolate with anywhere from 50 to 90% cocoa can be beneficial due to different manufacturing processes.
The benefits that come from consuming chocolate are in the chocolate liquor or cocoa solids used to make it.
We'll look at the latest research on dark chocolates health benefits for decreasing cardiovascular risk, lowering blood pressure, increased antioxidant properties, and increased skin protection.
First, though, let's learn a bit more chocolate story.
Chocolate comes from the pods of the Theobroma Cacao or Cocoa trees.
The trees like deep fertile soil with good drainage and a nice canopy for protection.
Cocoa trees are found growing in a region that extends for about 20 degrees on either side of the equator.
When the pods are ready to be harvested, they are manually cut down from the trees.
The pods are then sliced open and the cocoa beans are removed from the pods.
The beans prior to fermentation are covered with a white pulpy mucilage.
All the beans from a harvest are gathered together and fermented.
During fermentation, important flavor precursors are developed.
After fermentation, the beans are dried, and then sold to chocolate manufacturers.
After the bans are cleaned, the manufacturer can roast the whole bean or nib to desired levels to develop flavor notes.
During processing, the shell is removed, leaving a cocoa nib.
The nib is then ground into chocolate liquor for chocolate making.
Chocolate manufacturers influence the flavor of chocolate with a roasting level or if they choose to alkalize or dutch-process the chocolate, which means neutralizing the acids in the nib or liquor.
The different manufacturing processes can also affect the percent of flavanol remaining in the chocolate liquor used to make a chocolate product.
How does the different ways chocolate is made affect our health?
Research has indicated that consuming dark chocolate in moderation can lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.
Dark chocolate has this effect due to its high polyphenol content but, more specifically, to the flavanols, a subgroup of the polyphenolic family.
The polyphenols have the ability to lower blood pressure by increasing the production of nitrous oxide, which causes arteries to relax.
When the arteries relax, the resistance of blood flow will then decrease, lowering blood pressure.
Only dark chocolate has the high polyphenol content that can lower blood pressure and produce health benefits.
Milk chocolate contains very few polyphenols and a small percentage of cocoa solids.
White chocolate contains zero polyphenols and has no cocoa solids.
Dark chocolate contains epicatechin flavanols and catechins, which are polyphenols and antioxidants that have been shown to improve cardiovascular disease, hypertension, insulin resistance, hypercholesterolemia, and cognition.
Flavanols can increase endothelia function in the inner lining of blood vessels which has a protective effect.
Additional research is needed to identify more of dark chocolates protective factors with chronic disease.
Because of their health benefits, 2016 research recommends the testing and labeling of epicatechin levels in chocolate, as opposed to the percentage of cocoa.
Chocolate also contains antioxidants and antioxidants from the diet help with maintaining healthy skin.
Cocoa masks or chocolate liquor found in dark chocolate increases skin hydration and skin density, decreases the roughness of skin, and increases the blood flow in tissues.
The antioxidants in dark chocolate also act as photo-protectors from the sun.
However, skin protection has been seen mainly in people who have consumed dark chocolate over a long period of time.
This does not mean they consumed dark chocolate every day or in large amounts but that they have eaten dark chocolate in moderation for an extended period of time.
When eating chocolate, you want to look for products that have a high percentage of cocoa or chocolate liquor while still watching the amount of sugar and fat in the product.
The table here shows US dietary guidelines, added sugar recommendation by age group and calorie consumption.
The guidelines recommend that added sugars are less than 10% of the daily calories.
So, for women age 31 to 50 years, eating an average of 1800 daily calories, less than 180 calories should be from added sugars.
The major factor to remember when purchasing and consuming dark chocolate is that it should be consumed in moderation.
Ever find yourself standing in the candy aisle, contemplating which chocolate you should get after a long and stressful day?
After reading the following tips, you will no longer need to wonder if the choice you made was the right one.
Products can be very misleading when focusing solely on its name.
You will want to check the front of the package for the percentage of cocoa.
Remember, the recommendation is 50 to 90%.
Choose those with chocolate liquor high on the ingredient declaration and low in sugar and fat.
Research studies have shown a moderate amount is one ounce.
This may not seem like a large amount but it is recommended to consume dark chocolate regularly.
This means at least once every week as long as you are following the one ounce.
Dark chocolate still contains sugar, some brands more than others, and we all know a diet high in sugar can lead to an increase in weight gain and possibly chronic diseases.
Now you know that dark chocolate in moderation has health benefits.