Posted on Jul 07, 2019, 5 p.m.
Approximately $22 billion is spent on chocolate within the USA alone every year. Chocolate may seem like the exact opposite of healthy, but according to experts it is less about the occasional small indulgence and more about making healthy lifestyle choices such as being physically active, managing stress, getting enough sleep, and following a balanced healthy diet.
Typically chocolate is either dark, white, or milk chocolate, and the firmness is determined by the proportion of cocoa solids from cocoa beans mixed with sugar and cocoa butter being used.
Americans seem to prefer milk chocolate, which contains about 10% cocoa liquor as compared to the minimum of 35% found in dark chocolates; white chocolate only contains cocoa butter and no cocoa solids at all.
A standard dark chocolate bar with 70-85% cacao contains around 600 calories and 24 grams of sugar according to the U.S Department of Agriculture; milk chocolate contains roughly the same number of calories but contains twice the sugar.
The amount of cocoa solids in dark chocolate is important as it can be an indicator of the amount of dietary flavonoid antioxidants it contains; consuming more dietary flavonoids is linked to a lower risk of coronary heart disease and dark chocolate is high in flavanols.
Chocolate/cocoa consumption, in moderation, has been suggested to be associated with a lower risk of insulin resistance and high blood pressure among adults in several studies.
"While dark chocolate has more flavanols than other types of chocolate, the data to suggest there is enough to have a health effect is thin at this point," said Alice H. Lichtenstein of Tufts University.
Researchers conducting a study in 2017 closely controlling participant diet found eating raw almonds, dark chocolate, and cocoa helped to lower LDL cholesterol in those who were overweight and obese; when the almonds were removed from their diet the same effects were not observed. The flavanol dose was half used in earlier studies that found a beneficial effect on blood pressure, 274 milligrams compared to 586, which is unlikely to be achievable with daily consumption of commercial available dark chocolate.
Bringham and Women’s Hospital are currently studying whether a daily 600 mg supplement of cocoa flavanols can help to reduce the risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease.
Chocolate can be part of an overall healthy diet. "If you enjoy chocolate," Lichtenstein said, "the important thing to do is choose the type you enjoy the most and eat it in moderation because you like it, not because you think it is good for you."
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.