Chocolate: Good or Evil?

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

Everybody loves chocolate, especially my mom, so I decided today to clear up some confusion on the alleged and real health benefits one of the world’s most delicious foods, chocolate.

Now I love chocolate as much as the next person, but I have come to terms with the fact that not all chocolate is created equal. The health benefits of chocolate mainly depend on how much percentage of that chocolate is made up of cacao. On most dark chocolate wrappers a percentage will be shown, and this is the real key to knowing which chocolate is best. The only downfall to this is the higher the percentage, the better the health benefits, the more bitter it tastes. Always a catch.

Dark chocolate is chock full of health benefits, and with over 300 identified compounds, is certainly one of the most complex delicacies on the planet. One family of important compounds are flavanols, which can decrease blood clotting to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Another heart healthy benefit of dark chocolate is it’s ability to decrease blood pressure due to its ability to stimulate nitric oxide and its high magnesium content. Cacao also contains tryptophan, which stimulates serotonin production, the “happy” neurotransmitter. Lastly, it is also a good source of sulfur, which is responsible for healthy skin, hair and nails.

The problem is, the lower the percentage of raw cacao, the less of the wonderful elements there are, the less fiber and the more sugar and processed ingredients. These health benefits are found in raw cacao, and a lot of these health promoting substance are what make dark chocolate bitter. Unfortunately, milk chocolate and white chocolate do not qualify as health foods, missing out on compounds that their dark brethren are loaded with. One other catch is that all chocolate, including 100% raw cacao (my favorite) is high in fat, mainly the saturated kind. I have stated numerous times on my blog that while I don’t whole heartedly believe that saturated fat is a cause of heart disease, eaten to excess it can still cause issues. Fortunately the majority of the fatty acids in chocolate are either heart healthy or neutral, with only a third of them being anything to worry about. A few ounces per week is all you need to reap the benefits, anything more and you are just adding excess calories. There was a recent study that I looked at that is eluding me at the moment that I believe stated the actual amount was 1.5oz every other day to maximize the health benefits, anything more provided no greated benefit, just calories.

Most nutrition experts will recommend consuming dark chocolate that is 70% cacao, I take it a step further and like to see people over the 80% marker, more fiber, less sugar, more benefits. I personally use a great product from a company called Navitas Natural. It is shredded 100% raw cacao, that I put in yogurt and cottage cheese, it is awesome. 1 serving contains:

  • Calories   130
  • Fat           12g
  • Sat. Fat     7g
  • Carbs       10g
  • Fiber         9g
  • Protein      4g

Not too shabby at all. A big thanks to Danny for sharing that Navitas Naturals with me, and a shout out to EC for finally joining the club. Eric and his girlfriend Anna got engaged this past weekend, and I think his staff record deadlift is up for grabs with that newfound ball and chain he has to lift on every rep. Haha just kidding Eric. Sorta.

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Posted on April 21st, 2009 by Brian St. Pierre

8 Comments

  1. Bob Parr Says:

    Hi Brian,

    Two quick questions regarding chocolate:
    What are your thoughts regarding straight-up cocoa powder, such as is found in the baking section of any grocery store? It’s 100% cacao, though I realize it has had some processing.
    In the past, I have tried adding a spoonful to protein shakes. Bad idea?

    Also, baker’s chocolate, which is also pretty much pure cocoa, is found in the same aisle. It has no sugar added, and is quite bitter… But I don’t mind bitter. Bad idea to eat small amounts of this?

    Thanks!

  2. Steph Says:

    I’m reading this as I eat my well deserved post marathon chocolate. Thanks a lot for ruining my day Brian. I’m guessing my Junior Mints don’t fall under the category of “good chocolate.”

  3. Article: Let’s Talk About Dark Chocolate « Train Thyself Says:

    [...] the goodness of the fat and antioxidants that come from gooed quality dark chocolate. The link here is a good article to read further about this [...]

  4. Callum Says:

    Brian,

    Is there any difference between the 100% raw cacao in nibs or the powdered form?

    I noticed powder is cheaper, just curious as to why and if one better than the other.

    Thanks.

  5. A Sweet Treat : The Home of BSP Training & Nutrition Says:

    [...] of antioxidants, high in magnesium, high in iron and tastes awesome. I wrote an entire blog on the benefits of dark chocolate, so that is not really where I am headed with this today. Another great food that I have always [...]

  6. LEEN Says:

    iL LUHV DARK CHOCOLATE !!

  7. neck josh Says:

    A Big No!!

    Chocolates is Good!

    Chocolates have a lot good benefits on our body. You can prevent the formation of blood clots which can lead to heart attacks and strokes and Increase the flexibility of blood vessels in order to lower blood pressures and decrease the stress on the heart and Help with weight gains and decrease appetites LOL..

  8. instalacja elektryczna Warszawa Says:

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