Chocolate: A New Choice for Health

Among the Kuna people of Panama, who can drink up to 40 cups of cocoa per week, rates of the "big killer" diseases are less than 10%. Cocoa is the richest source of flavonoids when cold processed, and since cocoa is the main beverage of the Kuna, they probably have the most flavonoid-rich diet of any population.

For both women's health and men's health, dark, unprocessed chocolate, eaten or taken in a drink up to three times a day is showing numerous health benefits for the cardiovascular system, brain function, energy and stamina, and insulin sensitivity.

Cocoa in its unprocessed form has the highest anti-oxidant rating of any food in the world. Anti oxidants are critical in combating free radicals - one of the leading causes of disease and death.

What is a Free Radical?

A free radical is an atom with an unpaired electron in the outermost shell. Say you have a bare piece of steel and you leave it outside for a while. What's going to happen to the piece of steel? It's going to rust. This is called oxidation.

Our bodies go through the same process every day. As we breathe, eat, sleep and exercise, our body experiences oxidation. This is the cause of aging and more than 200 degenerative diseases. With the help of antioxidants, you can greatly reduce the number of free radicals in your body.

What are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are molecules that can prevent the damaging effects of excessive amounts of free radicals in the body by neutralizing and destroying them.

Antioxidants are measured by an ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale, per 100 grams of weight. Using this scale, the antioxidant capacities of different foods can be measured. The USDA recommends an intake of 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC daily. If we compare the ORAC score of unprocessed cocoa to other foods, it's immediately apparent how valuable this is for daily health.

ORAC Scores for Common Foods

Unprocessed Cocoa Powder: 26,000 ORAC
Acai Berry: 18,500 ORAC
Prunes: 5,770 ORAC
Raisins: 2,830 ORAC
Blueberries: 2,400 ORAC
Spinach: 1,260 ORAC
Red Grapes: 739 ORAC

All Chocolate Is Not Created Equal

The health benefits ascribed to chocolate relate nearly exclusively to dark, bittersweet-tasting chocolate and to products with a cocoa content of 60% or more. As a general rule, the darker the chocolate, the more likely it is to offer health benefits. Because polyphenols are found in the cocoa bean but not in the milk, cream, sugar, waxes, fillers, fats and preservatives, the darker the chocolate the better. Also, look for chocolate products that are processed without "dutching" or alkalinization. These processes remove a significant portion of the antioxidant compounds in natural cocoa. The cocoa beans should also have been cold-pressed without heating; the heat also destroys cocoa's polyphenols and flavonoids.

We no longer need to feel guilty for eating what we all love, chocolate. Take a bite of that dark healthy chocolate three or more times a day - it will contribute to ongoing health!

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About The Author, Chris Robertson
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