Healthy Benefits of Chocolate

Various TrufflesCan this sweet treat many of us enjoy really be healthy for us? Although research is growing on this topic, some experts believe that there are benefits to eating chocolate. When they talk about chocolate they are referring to mainly darker chocolate, not milk chocolate or white chocolate. If you are a chocolate lover like me, then you would love to believe that it could possibly be a health food!

Where does this idea come from?

A group of Indians living on an island off of Panama have a low risk of cardiovascular disease and  high blood pressure.  This same group tends to consume a high amount of cocoa (a different form than we consume). The chocolate we eat is processed which can extract 2 main components from the cocoa beans (the cocoa solids and cocoa butter). The darker a chocolate is the more cocoa solids it contains. In addition, researchers believe that the cocoa solids are the healthy component of chocolate.

Research has shown in the past that there are positive correlations between dark chocolate and blood pressure. A research study performed at Harvard shows that eating more dark chocolate can lower blood pressure especially for those participants who had high blood pressure to begin with. There are some limitations with the study though. Many people who eat chocolate eat it with another food, so a study on just chocolate may be unreliable because the other food could play a factor in the outcome. Another limitation is that these studies have all been relatively short. Other studies have even shown that chocolate can help with cancer rates, but again they are ongoing and the results are not proven yet.

So, Should you eat chocolate?

                Depending on the type of chocolate you eat can determine the benefits of it. If you consume white chocolate then you are not getting any of the cocoa solids so it would not benefit your health in any way. Chocolate that we eat also has many additives in it that makes it high in calories, and we all know that our weight is associated with our health as well. For those of you who are eating chocolate, try eating dark chocolate. I know it has a bitter flavor compared to the sweet/smooth flavor of milk chocolate, but it does have health benefits. Eating dark chocolate can be a yummy way to lower your blood pressure.