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The Health Benefits of Chocolate

Chocolate - "The divine drink, which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day without food" - Montezuma – Aztec Emperor (1480-1520)

Although it has not yet been proven that chocolate is essential for life, it is common knowledge that chocolate significantly improves the well-being of many people. However, despite the lack of evidence that it is essential for life, there are scientifically proven health benefits related to chocolate.

Memory experts say that consuming a little of the right kind of chocolate each day may help improve one's memory. Although more research is needed, researchers suspect that compounds in dark chocolate called procyanidins counteract two conditions that age the brain: oxidation and inflammation. Some scientists also believe that procyanidins improve memory by increasing blood circulation to the brain, thereby increasing the supplies of oxygen and nutrients that are essential to the proper functioning of the brain.

To enjoy the memory benefits of chocolate, however, it is important to choose the right kinds. Dark varieties with at least 60 percent cocoa are best. American brands of chocolate, including dark chocolate, are made with very little cocoa. Therefore, it is better to choose French or Belgian brands. Valrhona, for example, is available in some gourmet and natural food stores. In other words, just go for the good stuff!

Chocolate has other benefits as well. When enjoyed in moderation, the flavnoids in chocolate help reduce the incidence of blood clotting, a leading cause of heart attacks and strokes. In addition, a recent study of 7,841 Harvard male graduates by the Harvard School of Public Health stated that chocolate eaters live almost a year longer than those who abstain.

Yes, it's true, Chocolate which is high in cocoa solids (60 to 70% or more) is now recognized as having many qualities that are beneficial to health,
• Chocolate contains essential trace elements and nutrients such as iron, calcium and potassium, and vitamins A. B1, C, D, and E.
• Cocoa is also the highest natural source for Magnesium
Magnesium deficiency is linked with hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, joint problems and pre-menstrual tension (PMT or PMS).

There are benefits in Chocolate for both men and women:
• the high Magnesium content of Chocolate is beneficial for the Cardiovascular System and hypertension -
• the fat in high quality plain chocolate (although technically a 'saturated fat') can be considered cholesterol free as it does not fur up the arteries or contribute to high cholesterol levels.
• It's a pre-menstrual drop in progesterone levels which is responsible for the violent mood swings familiar to so many women (and their families), adding magnesium to a sufferers diet has been proved to increase pre-menstrual progesterone levels, thus alleviating the problem.

It's a fact that plain dark chocolate products containing a minimum 70% or more cocoa solids are the healthiest and the best way to satisfy a craving for chocolate, without consuming too much sugar and saturated fat. If your a Milk or White Chocolate lover, choose products with a minimum of 30% chocolate solids (Milk Chocolate) or 30% chocolate butter (white chocolate).

Chocolate lovers go wrong by choosing cheap (& not so cheap) "brand name" chocolate or chocolates, low in chocolate solids (ave is less than 20%, but some can contain less than 7% chocolate solids) all are high in sugar content, saturated fats and other nasties and consequently, ruinous for your teeth and health.

Incidentally, chocolates, both the commercial variety and (sadly) many hand made varieties, are some of the worst culprits with centres consisting almost exclusively of flavoured Fondant and Praline, fondant is virtually 100% sugar and pralines are just as bad.

Chocolate Contains Healthy Antioxidants
High Levels of Antioxidants Prompt Further Research

Chocolate lovers can take heart in the growing body of research that shows this favorite food is packed with high-quality polyphenol antioxidants- beneficial compounds similar to those found in fruits, vegetables and red wine that scientists say may reduce the risk for developing heart disease, as well as offer some anti-aging health benefits.

"Research on antioxidants is only in its infancy," explains Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at The Pennsylvania State University and author of a new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. "We already know that increased consumption of fruits and vegetables results in an increase of antioxidants in our blood. We believe chocolate consumption may have the same effect."

Antioxidants in the blood stream essentially mop up substances called free radicals, small reactive molecules that cause damage to the body, which scientists believe may be the triggers for serious diseases such as cancer and heart disease. They also may be related to cognitive deterioration that comes with aging.

Studies have shown that chocolate contains a very high level of antioxidants, ranking with the top fruits and vegetables for antioxidant content.

"When you think of chocolate, you think of a chocolate bar, chocolate chips or something with a cream-filled center," said Kris-Etherton. "We forget that chocolate is derived from cocoa beans - the fruit of the cacao tree - a fruit that is a rich source of these potentially beneficial substances."

Research conducted over the past three years at the University of Scranton demonstrated that the quality and quantity of the antioxidants in chocolate are very high relative to other common foods and beverages such as black tea, red wine, raisins, strawberries, pinto beans and other plant products. Cocoa powder ranked the highest of the chocolate products, followed by dark chocolate and milk chocolate. Dark chocolate contained about eight times the polyphenol antioxidants as strawberries, which rank high among fruits.
Most recently studies indicate chocolate's polyphenols are not only absorbed in the bloodstream, they also may have some positive health affects. But will eating chocolate help prevent heart disease?

Kris-Etherton's current research will bring science closer to answering that question. Kris-Etherton found that 24 human subjects absorbed antioxidants from a small amount of cocoa powder and dark chocolate added to their diets. The study also yielded exciting results regarding chocolate's effect on blood cholesterol levels.

"The results for subjects consuming the dark chocolate and cocoa powder showed that the increased antioxidant levels protected the LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) from being oxidized. This is important because it is what starts the process of atherosclerosis. In addition, HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels were increased. Both of these findings are associated with a decreased risk of heart disease," explained Kris-Etherton.

The current research on chocolate was spurred by earlier studies that suggested chocolate could have some positive antioxidant benefits. In Japan, researchers fed cocoa extract to rabbits and found that it retarded cholesterol oxidation which leads to artery plaque build-up. In another experiment, a phenol compound in cocoa called epicatechin was shown to inhibit the formation of skin tumors in mice.

Kris-Etherton said future studies on chocolate's antioxidant activity may include combining cocoa and chocolate with other foods, such as nuts, to determine their biological effect on humans. The latest observations on nuts suggest they may be protective against heart disease.

"Chocolate holds the promise of healthful benefits from its antioxidant content," said Kris-Etherton. "Our next steps will hopefully clarify those benefits for all of us who enjoy chocolate."

Researchers have recommended that people increase their consumption of antioxidant rich foods, but they caution that more studies need to be done to determine how much of the antioxidants in foods are actually absorbed into the blood.

Health Benefits of Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate

• Chocolate provides a number of nutrients the body requires daily. A milk chocolate bar weighing 1.4 ounces, contains about three grams of protein, 15% of the daily value of riboflavin, 9% of the daily value of calcium, 7% of the daily value for iron and 10% of the daily requirement for potassium.

• A 1.4 ounce milk chocolate bar contains approximately 210 calories. Approximately 20 pistoles of Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate contain 8 grams of fat and 9 calories per gram. A third of its fat is stearic acid which is not assimilated by the body.

• Researchers at UC Davis have found that chocolate contains a number of flavonoids, compounds which retard the oxidation of fats preventing low density lipoprotiens (LDLs) from creating plaque and clogging arteries.

• Chocolate's antioxidant potency roughly matches that of gallic acid, another potent antioxidant, and is even more effective at cutting oxidation of (LDLs) than those in red wine (consumption of which has been found to reduce significantly an individual's risk of heart attack).

• In addition chocolate contains tannins and phenolics, the same chemicals that act as antioxidants in laboratory tests of red wine. 1.5 ounces of milk chocolate contain about as much phenol as a 5 ounce glass of red wine. Dark chocolate contains even more phenol than milk chocolate.

• Dark Chocolate contains no cholesterol.

• Chocolate contains copper (.8mg per 100g) which enhances red blood cells' ability to carry oxygen. The average woman is deficient in copper. A good source of copper is liver but wouldn't you rather eat chocolate?

• Chocolate also contains phosphorus (138mg per 100g) which is an essential component of phospholipids that makes up our cell membranes.

• PEA (Phenylethylamine) is followed closely by theobroma as the chocolate chemical most responsible for lifting depressions. It is one of a group of plant-based stimulants called methylxanthines whose best known member is caffeine. Chocolate has straight caffeine too, but in very small amounts (70mg/100g). The effects of theobroma are similar to, but milder than caffeine's, and include alertness and decreased fatigue.Chocolate's high level of magnesium (131mg per 100 g) is also credited for adding to the euphoria one gets from eating chocolate. Magnesium levels are found to be low during menstruation.

• Serotonin (3mg/100g) and tyramine (2mg/100g) are also present in chocolate and provide a mild calming, balancing effect.

Health benefits of chocolate

There have been many studies linking cocoa with health benefits. The darker chocolate with the most concentrated cocoa will of course be the most beneficial. The following are a list of a few health benefits we found:
Heart - Phytochemicals called flavonoids that are found in cocoa have two positive effects. One, the antioxidants block arterial damage caused by free radicals. These unstable molecules (free radicals) may damage the arterial walls by blocking the artery wall lining. The second indicates, that chocolate inhibit platelet aggregation which could cause a heart attack or stroke.

There have also been studies indicating that cocoa flavonoids relax the blood vessels which inhibit an enzyme that causes inflammation.

General Health
Antioxidants - Flavonoids and the subgroup called catechins are found in dark chocolate at four times the amount that is found in green tea. Antioxidants block the free radicals that are breakdown normal cell reproduction. More information can be read at Candy USA .

Dark chocolate 60% + provides the most antioxidants per weight than:
Dark chocolate 50g =300 mg Polyphenals
Green Tea 240 ml =400 mg Polyphenals
Wine 140 ml =170 mg Polyphenals

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