Can Chocolate Make You More Healthy?

By: teahupoo
How's that for an opening statement? Are you like me? Would you eat even more chocolate if you could justify it by saying it was good for you? Well, hold onto your hat because it turns out that according to some recently released information some kinds of chocolate my very well be good for you! The renowned health expert, Andrew Weil even endorses the consumption of dark chocolate.

The link to the health benefits of chocolate was claimed in a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study was sponsored by the American Cocoa Research Institute and only consisted of twenty three participants. The summary or abstract from the study said that chocolate when combined with a healthy diet, increased HDL cholesterol levels, which is the good kind of cholesterol and also had an antioxidant benefit.

This study wasn't as earth shaking as the media hyped it to be. When you look deeper into the study you find that the results were exaggerated and that the beneficial effects from chocolate were minimal. Even the touted benefits of increasing HDL were not as great as originally claimed with the researchers admitting, "the cocoa-chocolate diet had neutral effects on lipids and lipoproteins."

It is well known that soy, grapes, tea, onions, apples, citrus and many others are rich sources of antioxidants, so it's not surprising that cocoa contains an antioxidant, too. How important is the antioxidant in chocolate? In "How good is chocolate?" nutrition expert Paul Nestel questioned the importance of chocolate's modest effects on LDL oxidation. He further asked, "Given that there are thousands of flavonoids in the foods that we eat ... should each new finding be greeted as an encouragement to eat that particular source because it contains a special flavonoid?"

As much as we love chocolate we have to put the benefits of eating it in perspective. You can get similar antioxidants from almost any other plant-based foods. Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are much better sources of antioxidants, and also contain many other healthful nutrients. And unlike chocolate, they won't increase your waistline with extra calories from sugar and fat.

As much as we would like to believe it, the fact is that chocolate is a great tasting dessert food but it is a long way from being health food. Like anything else that we may consider a vice, it should be consumed in moderation.
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