The Health Benefits of Cocoa
by Carl Smith, Deli & Cheese Buyer
There have been many studies linking cocoa and dark chocolate with health benefits. Cocoa and chocolate contain a large amount of antioxidants (flavonoids). Cocoa and dark chocolate may keep high blood pressure down and reduce the blood’s ability to clot, thus the risk of stroke and heart attacks may be reduced. The darker chocolate with the most concentrated cocoa will be the most beneficial. According to an Italian study, a small square (20 g) of dark (bittersweet) chocolate every three days is the ideal dose for cardiovascular benefits. Eating more does not provide additional benefits.
You can achieve optimum nutritional benefits with Dark Chocolate versus Milk and/or White Chocolate. So, look for chocolate with more than 55% cocoa content. Brands that we carry that have the best nutritional values in this range are Scharffenberger, Valrhona, Vosges, Lindt, Godiva and Moonstruck Chocolate.
Cocoa beans contain approximately 50% fat. It is primarily comprised of two saturated fatty acids (palmitic and stearic acids) and one mono-unsaturated acid (oleic acid). Cocoa butter and chocolate do not raise blood cholesterol. However, when consuming milk chocolate or lower grade chocolate where a part of the total fat content comes from milk fat or various other types of fat, the cholesterol level might be adversely affected.
The cacao bean contains quite a lot of carbohydrates, but most of it is starch, soluble dietary fibers, and insoluble dietary fibers. A very small proportion is simple sugars. Sugar is added during the manufacture of chocolate.
Cocoa beans contain polyphenols (similar to those found in wine) with antioxidant properties which are health beneficial. These compounds are called flavonoids and include catechins, epicatechins, and procyanidins. The antioxidant flavonoids are found in the nonfat portions of the cocoa bean. The flavonoids also reduce the blood’s ability to clot and thus reduces the risk of stroke and heart attacks.
Theobromine is a very mild stimulant with a mild diuretic action (increases the production of urine). Theobromine can be toxic to animals like dogs, cats, parrots and horses.
Cocoa beans contain a very low amount of caffeine, much less than found in coffee, tea and cola drinks.
Phenylethylamine is a slight antidepressant and stimulant similar to the body’s own dopamine and adrenaline.
Cocoa and chocolate can increase the level of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin levels are often decreased in people with depression and in those experiencing PMS symptoms.
Cocoa beans are rich in a number of essential minerals, including magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese.
A, B1, B2, B3, C, E and pantothenic acid.
Is chocolate fattening?
Yes, chocolate is fattening. Even dark chocolate contains a lot of calories because of the large content of fat and sugar. The sugar content in chocolate is worse than the fat content regarding negative effects on health.