Chocolate has been a guilty pleasure we all secretly
indulged in ever since we were kids, when we were
constantly warned of its nasty effects on our teeth.
Growing up, our parents said it was a sure-fire formula for
hyperactivity and sleeplessness, until adolescence came along and we
stayed off it days before prom night because it was definitely a recipe
for acne disaster.
Despite all the stop signs, we just can’t get enough of it.
Chocolate seems to be the tamest of all secret pleasures because it
gives us comfort yet it does no harm to others.
But does it really do harm to your body?
Death By Chocolate
This dessert name says it all, but don’t worry – it’s
merely a marketing ploy purported by the restaurant chain Bennigan’s to entice diners to
partake of something that “tastes so
good that it can possibly be dangerous.”
In reality, it
isn’t true that chocolate can cause cavities and tooth decay if the
teeth are properly brushed and flossed;
nor cause hyperactivity, as an ounce of milk chocolate only has 5 mg of
caffeine, compared to an average cup of coffee’s 100-150 mg; and
neither can it cause acne on its own merits.
It’s not even addictive, at least not in the sense that alcohol,
nicotine, or other drugs are. On the contrary – studies on the health
benefits of chocolate are providing encouraging results.
How Chocolate Can Actually Be Good For You
Having something that tastes so good and is at the same time
beneficial for our health is simply too much. Is it at all possible?
Researchers at Harvard recently tested the effects of cocoa –
chocolate’s base – on 136 participants, and they found that the
substance improved blood flow,
lowered bad cholesterol, and decreased platelet stickiness.
When this stickiness is reduced, the clotting that causes heart attacks
and strokes is minimized.
The flavonoids in cocoa were found to be responsible for these results,
as they seemed to prevent cell inflammation and damage.
Hypertension is also alleviated by eating 3.5 oz of dark chocolate daily,
says Dr. Blumberg of Tufts University.
Chocolate contains antioxidants that block chemical changes in bad
LDL cholesterol that cause clogged arteries. In fact, it was found that
performed better than Vitamin C as an antioxidant and at detoxifying
No significant effects were
detected on those who ate white chocolate, however.
The most plausible explanation for these results was that white
chocolate doesn’t have any cocoa nor flavonoids in it.
And here’s a stunning counterargument to the age-old
acne-and-chocolate theory: Three months of drinking half a cup of a
flavonoid-enriched cocoa beverage gave two dozen women smoother and moister
The German researchers who conducted the study believed that the
flavonoids helped improve the blood flow to the skin, significantly
giving it a healthier look.
Even chocolate milk has been found to assist
recovery during a workout.
Athletes who drank this beverage in between their workouts were
found to come up with better endurance and fatigue test scores than
those who drank regular sports drinks.
The brain can also benefit from chocolate, according to researchers
at the Wheeling Jesuit University. Due to an improved blood circulation
to the brain, chocolate could actually improve problem-solving
skills, memory, reaction time, and attention span.
Perhaps one of the most intensive studies on the potential benefits
of chocolates is being conducted by the mammoth conglomerate Mars, Inc.
In the 1990s, the confectionary giant suffered a major setback when its
suppliers in Brazil were waylaid by a fungal crop infection.
Since then, Mars started spending on studies to determine cocoa
beans’ chemical makeup and perhaps mimic its composition, just in case
another similar catastrophe happened in the future.
It was a tall order, but along the way, the studies branched out into
the development of functional cocoa – that is, cocoa used to make fortified foods that
are good for the health.
seriously working on a flavanol-rich cocoa that can be touted as a
product with cardiovascular and cerebral benefits.
Given America’s worsening problem of childhood obesity, they’re a
long way from turning chocolate around from being everyone’s secret
indulgence to a type of functional food, but we’re all crossing our