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Eating Chocolate To Save Your Life

Some of us are addicts.

 

Most of us have broken a diet or two to succumb to it’s charm.

 

Nearly all women have threatened to kill somebody at some point if they couldn’t get their hands on it.

 

I’m talking, of course, about chocolate.

 

As an admittant fan of chocolate, I’ve decided to write an article on the benefits of eating chocolate and, more importantly, the type of chocolate you should be eating in order to gain these benefits (and not a dress size).

 

An article was issued in 2004 that put forth an idea of the ideal meal, called the “Polymeal”. Foods were researched and examined, and a group of foods was put together that, when eaten every day, would significantly reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease.

 

Dark chocolate was one of the 7 ingredients that made it into the Polymeal (along with red wine, fish, nuts, garlic, fruits and vegetables – for those of you playing at home).

 

The main reason why chocolate is so good for you is because cocoa is rich in flavonoids. Flavonoids have many health promoting effects, and antioxidant qualities. They are generally found in plant-based foods, however cocoa is rich in a particular class of flavonoid called flavanol.

 

Flavanols prevent fatlike substances in the bloodstream from clogging the arteries, which can greatly reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.

 

When ingested, flavanols cause significant increases in circulating nitric oxide, which allows the blood vessels to widen and relax. Nitric Oxide is critical for healthy blood flow and blood pressure.

 

Flavanol-rich cocoa has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity in healthy people, lower cholesterol, improve circulation, improve survival after heart attack, improve brain function, increase mental energy, and even improve endurance performance.

 

Now, I am not suggesting that you go out and buy a block of your favourite chocolate right now and demolish it. Eating the right type of chocolate, and in moderation, is the key to being able to enjoy chocolate and all of its benefits.

 

You want to eat chocolate that is rich in flavanols and polyphenols, in order to obtain any of the health benefits I have spoken about. The basic rule is, that the higher the percentage of cocoa, the higher the concentrate of flavanol.

 

Chocolate with 85% cocoa mass would be ideal, and 70% would be a minimum recommendation for those who can’t stand the bitterness of anything higher.

 

White chocolate is, unfortunately, a no go!

 

Avoid any milk chocolate products – a non-dairy product would be ideal. The dark chocolate suggested as part of the Polymeal is, in fact, a dairy-free chocolate!

 

So the next thing to do is to have a look at the list of ingredients before making an informed decision on the best one for you. Many of the commercial bars are loaded with sugars, fats and chemicals that you don’t want to be adding to your diet.

 

Remember that the more the chocolate is processed, the more the beneficial flavonoids are lost.

 

Fat content itself is not always the issue when reading the label, as one of the 3 kinds of fat found in chocolate is oleic acid, which is the same kind found in olive oil – a heart healthy fat.

 

However, steer well away from any chocolate with high-fructose corn syrup and/or hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats. These will be doing more harm then good! (See my article Will Fats Make Me Fat for more information regarding those harmful fats!)

 

Lastly, is knowing when to enjoy chocolate and how much of it to have.

 

As I’m sure you can imagine, chocolate needs to be enjoyed in moderation. Too much of this good thing will be sure to take you back a few steps with your weight loss goals.

 

I suggest that you enjoy servings of around 15 – 30 grams of chocolate 2-3 times a week. (This is assuming you are maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regime).

 

For healthy individuals who are not aiming to achieve weight loss and don’t have any medical condition that would prevent you from eating it, you could enjoy this same amount daily.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, as long as you can respect these guidelines, you may add chocolate into your diet every other day – guilt free!

 

Eat the right chocolate… And eat it in moderation.

 

You have my blessing.

 

-V xx

 

 

Reference:

Bowden , J. (2007). The 150 Healthiest Foods. USA: Fair Winds Press.

http://www.charlespoliquin.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/807/Do_Women_Really_Need_Chocolate.aspx

 

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