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Health food of the month - Chocolate

August 2011 

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Diet & Supplements Index
Yes, right! I know what you are thinking, chocolate and health can’t go together. In fact, it seems they can.

Chocolate as most people know comes from cocoa beans and, as with many natural substances, these beans have a number of nutritional benefits. The downside is that in the delicious chocolate we enjoy today, the cocoa is often mixed with butter, sugar, creams and other flavourings and additives which aren’t always beneficial to health!

But the good side is that chocolate contains a very high level of antioxidants. These help to offset the harmful chemical reactions that take place in our bodies causing all sorts of problems. It seems that just a 40g piece of chocolate contains more than 300 Chocolatemg of polyphenols. Polyphenols are the heart protecting benefits normally associated with red wine and green tea. Even better news is that the polyphenols in chocolate are of a specific type known as procyanidin flavonoids, the most protective type. These can help prevent harmful LDL-cholesterol from becoming oxidised and absorbed into the artery walls.

There is another benefit to chocolate. It helps to boost certain chemicals in the brain, including phenylethylamine. Known as PEA, this is related to amphetamines and produces a mild feel good factor. Then chocolate also includes tryptophan, which converts to serotonin in the brain, and theobromine, a stimulant. Both of these are great contributors to lifting mood and the general feeling of well-being.

Chocolate does contain a small level of caffeine which generally is accepted as not being very good. However, the levels in chocolate are around ten times below that found in an average cup of coffee or tea and a low intake of caffeine can improve fat metabolism and increase alertness.

Of course chocolate has its downside – it contains lots of calories and lots of sugar; but you can offset this by choosing the less sweet dark (high percentage cocoa) chocolate to help offset the bad aspects.

While I suppose chocolate can’t be considered as a total health food, nevertheless it is good to know that eating small amounts regularly can be really beneficial to your health.

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