Chocolate Is Good For You

Can chocolate improve your health? Find out what the experts are saying...

By Janette Blackwell

Great news on the chocolate front! Chocolate is good for you (under certain circumstances).

Katherine Tallmadge, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, says in the February 9, 2005, WASHINGTON POST, that “cacao, or cocoa beans, contain ‘flavanols,’ naturally occurring plant compounds also found in tea, red wine, and apples. Their properties have been studied as heart disease inhibitors.”

Carl L. Keen, chair of the department of nutrition at University of California, Davis, states in the same article that “the flavanols in cocoa help maintain a healthy vascular system. They reduce blood clotting (an aspirin like effect), reduce oxidative damage and improve blood flow.”

Unfortunately the flavanols in chocolate are bitter and are mostly removed from processed chocolate. The level decreases with each step, from the bean to the cocoa powder, and ultimately to a finished product.

But big manufacturers like Nestle and Mars Inc. (producers of M&Ms) are working on chocolate items that are -- what else? -- good for you. We can soon expect chocolate bars and candies that advertise their high level of flavanols.

In the meantime, the only product that states its flavanol level is Mars’ Dove Dark Chocolate, which has 150 mg. in 1.3 oz., a high level. It also has 200 calories. We live in an imperfect world.

While we’re waiting for more high-flavanol products, Ms. Tallmadge recommends unsweetened cocoa powder, but not the alkalized “Dutch processed” kind, which has had its flavanols reduced.

Next in desirability is semisweet or bittersweet chocolate with a high cocoa percentage. Some chocolates contain as much as 70% cocoa, but they can have as little as 35%. The percent of cocoa in milk chocolate can be even lower, and she does not recommend it. She says, “I recommend cocoa or an ounce per day of dark chocolate, which may be about 110 to 150 calories, depending on the chocolate. Any more than that and you’re probably going to take in too many calories for weight control.”

Do you have any idea of what you just read? A highly qualified nutrition professional is RECOMMENDING that you eat chocolate! Maybe not large quantities of chocolate, but chocolate.

If you have suffered much in the area of chocolate, you may want to enlarge that statement and post it on your bathroom mirror, where it can cheer you on rainy mornings.

As a little girl on a Montana farm, Janette Blackwell ate simple, lusciously delicious country cooking. Which food she brings to you in her storytelling cookbook, STEAMIN’ DOWN THE TRACKS WITH VIOLA HOCKENBERRY. Her website www.FoodAndFiction.com brings you country cooking and nostalgic stories, while at DelightfulFood.com she takes you on a personal, guided tour of the hidden culinary treasures of the Internet. Write to her at Janette@foodandfiction.com.

 

 

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