Is Chocolate “Good” For You?….

It depends on how you look at it. We can only kid ourselves so far … chocolate is not what most health professionals would consider a “health food” in the normal sense. BUT … when incorporated into your life style in moderation (i.e. not a binge item) and given the respect it deserves and appreciation it earns, it can be an enjoyable addition to your diet with a number of health perks.

Benefit Mechanism Benefits to You
Quick Energy Calories People with heavy mental demands or engaged in strenuous physical activity can experience a quick energy surge by eating chocolate.  Most chocolate products contain refined sugar that metabolizes quickly for a temporary energy boost.   Milk chocolate is generally higher in calories than the dark chocolate. [If weight is an issue for you and you are trying to reduce your calorie intake, there are claims that a cup of hot chocolate before a meal decreases your appetite.] Quote:  “The divine drink, which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits man to walk for a whole day without food.” – Hernando Cortés, 1519
Source of Antioxidants Polyphenois  flavanoids  flavanols  procyanidins
  1. Cocoa contains an unusually high quantity of an antioxidant known as procyanidins.  Wine and tea are also good sources of flavanols (a kind of procyanidins) but dark chocolate has a much greater concentration than either wine or tea.  [Antioxidants protect against the “oxygen free radicals” known to accelerate the body’s aging processes and which may be triggers for heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants slow the free radical progression.]
  2. Antioxidants are believed to provide cardiovascular benefits and reinforce the body’s immune system.
  3. Preliminary research indicates that these flavanols lower blood pressure and protect against heart disease.

There is growing evidence that small amounts of dark chocolate consumed regularly have a beneficial effect on the health of the human heart.

The following is a list of the “Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity” (ORAC) for common foods believed to be high in these antioxidants  [ORAC* Units per 100 Grams.]  Notice that dark chocolate has about eight times the antioxidants of strawberries!

Dark Chocolate      13,120
Milk Chocolate        6,740
Prunes        5,770
Raisins        2,830
Blueberries        2,400
Blackberries        2,036
Kale        1,770
Strawberries        1,540
Spinach        1,260
Raspberries        1,220
Brussels sprouts          980
Plums          949

**Data from U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Journal of the American Chemical Society

Ralph Felder, MD, author of The Bonus Years Diet, makes diet recommendations for women based on the results of the Framingham Heart Study. These recommendations include a daily dose of 2 oz. of dark chocolate (at least 60% cacao) unless the woman needs to reduce weight. In that instance he still suggests 1 oz. daily. The reasoning is that dark chocolate lowers blood pressure, relaxes artery walls and reduces the risk of heart disease by 11%.

Stimulation Caffeine
Low levels of both of these stimulants are found in chocolate and have been credited with the improving fatigue and concentration.  These levels are extremely low … one ounce of milk chocolate contains about the same amount of caffeine as one cup of decaffeinated coffee.
Psychological Benefits Endorphins;
Increase in theta brain waves;
Serotonin; Carbohydrates
Endorphins are produced by the body in greater amounts when eating chocolate and can increase optimism and decrease the likelihood of depression. An increase in endorphins may also reduce the person’s sensitivity to pain.Carbohydrates in chocolate can increase the serotonin level in the brain, resulting in a feeling of increased “well being.”  This does not imply that chocolate is a mood altering substance!  The reported phenomena of “cravings” in self proclaimed chocolate addicts is believed to be more behavioral and cultural than chemical.One study concluded that the smell of chocolate may cause an increase in theta brain waves and lead to increased relaxation.Note:  Chocolate is NOT actually an aphrodisiac although it has a small component of the mood elevator phenylethylamine (PEA.)  PEA is the chemical produced by our brains when we are happy so maybe there is an increase in positive and/or “amorous” attitude when you eat chocolate.
Source of Fiber Fiber Chocolate products contains varying amounts of fiber which is not surprising given it is produced from a plant.
Source of Calcium Calcium Calcium for bone strength is provided by white chocolate and milk chocolate.  A 1.5-ounce milk chocolate bar contains 9% of the recommended daily value of calcium.
Source of Protein Protein There is protein provided in varying amounts in chocolate.    A 1.5 ounce milk chocolate bar contains 3 grams of protein.
Lower Cholesterol Oleic Acid (mono-unsaturated fat) Cocoa butter (the fat separated from the chocolate liquor during processing of the beans) contains a mono-unsaturated fat called “oleic acid.”  Differing percentages of cocoa butter are used in the production of the final chocolate products.  This is the same fat contained in olive oil and it is believed that it may raise the HDL (“good cholesterol”) levels in the body.
Source of Vitamins Vitamin A
Vitamin B12
Vitamin D
Vitamin E
Different chocolate products have varying vitamin contents.
Source of Minerals Riboflavin
An average 1.5 ounce milk chocolate bar contains 7% of the recommended daily value of iron and 15% of riboflavin.
Other chocolate products contain varying quantities of other minerals.