Chocolate has been touted, for centuries, to have many more health benefits than health detriments due to the high polyphenol content. New research, and reviewing old research with a new viewpoint, is showing what those health benefits really are and it’s exciting!
Upon studying the results, it’s clear that when dairy and sugar are added to cocoa benefits are neutralized.
With all of the available evidence, including dozens of randomized controlled trials, the research is showing that arterial function was significantly improved immediately, within an hour (1). These new studies and study reviews are showing that the cocoa powder itself is the cause of these beneficial effects on reversing chronic arterial conditions like heart disease and cardiovascular conditions.
Furthermore, these studies confirm that when sugar and milk are added to cacoa, these benefits are neutralized or the conditions are worsened. This happens because dark chocolate contains 3 times the antioxidants than milk chocolate as well as the milk actively working against the human body. Even drinking a cup of milk with your dark chocolate will negate the beneficial effects of the antioxidants. A pilot study done on a small group of elderly men and women showed that after eating 40 grams of dark and milk chocolate eaten on separate days showed the participants could walk 11% further and 15% longer with the dark chocolate. There was no improvements with the milk chocolate consumption (2).
The cocoa powder itself may have beneficial effects in a number of chronic disease conditions including heart disease
“Other investigations have shown that polyphenols including those in dark chocolate may improve blood vessel function. But this study is extremely preliminary and I think everyone needs to be cautious when interpreting the findings,” said Creager, who is director of the Vascular Center at Brigham. “We know from other studies of antioxidants – vitamin C and vitamin E for example – that these interventions have not gone on to show improvement in cardiovascular health (3).” ~ Journal of the American Heart Association
When it comes to chocolate choice for health benefits, precautions exist with calories, fat and sugar. Cocoa-based products with little or no fat or sugar, while they may not be as tasty, are certainly preferred as a healthier option. There are many wonderful recipes now to make cocoa taste every bit as good as the processed versions (4).
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