If you're a fan of chocolate you're in good company. Chocolate is one of the most popular sweet-tasting treats in the world and has been for centuries. But part of the myth surrounding chocolate is that it tastes so good it must be bad for your health. Which gives it an air of the forbidden.
A beautifully wrapped box of chocolates has always been considered a very romantic gift. So if the special person in your life is a self-confessed chocoholic, you know one surefire way to please them on special occasions. But the surprising news from the scientific community is that this reputedly decadent treat actually has some health benefits, especially if you choose your chocolate wisely.
Is Chocolate A Health Food?
Chocolate contains over 300 chemicals, and has been the subject of a number of studies by universities and other scientific organizations. Here's a quick rundown of the results. We have no way of proving or disproving these claims so we offer them here as a stimulus for further research. If you're really interested in the subject, this may provide you with a starting point.
* Cacao, the source of chocolate, contains antibacterial agents that fight tooth decay. Of course, this is counteracted by the high sugar content of milk chocolate.
* The smell of chocolate may increase theta brain waves, resulting in relaxation.
* Chocolate contains phenyl ethylamine, a mild mood elevator.
* The cocoa butter in chocolate contains oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fat which may raise good cholesterol.
* Drinking a cup of hot chocolate before meals may actually diminish appetite.
* Men who eat chocolate live a year longer than those who don't.
* The flavanoids in chocolate may help keep blood vessels elastic.
* Chocolate increases antioxidant levels in the blood.
* Mexican healers use chocolate to treat bronchitis and insect bites.
* The carbohydrates in chocolate raise serotonin levels in the brain, resulting in a sense of well-being.
What Chocolate Won't Do
There are many myths and half-truths about the effects of chocolate on the human body. Here are the latest findings on several of them.
* Studies show that chocolate is not a causative factor in acne.
* Cacao contains the stimulants caffeine and bromine, but in such small quantities that they don't cause nervous excitability.
* Chocolate is not addictive.
* Chocolate contains stearic acid, a neutral fat which doesn't raise bad cholesterol.
* Chocolate doesn't make you 'high'. You'd need to eat a huge quantity (about 25lbs at one sitting) to feel any noticeable effect.
But On The Negative Side...
1. Chocolate may trigger headaches in migraine sufferers.
2. Milk chocolate is high in calories, saturated fat and sugar.
What About Chocolate And Your Pets?
Chocolate is considered dangerous to animals because it contains a stimulant called theobromine, which they can't digest.
Dark chocolate and baking chocolate are even more dangerous because they contain higher concentrations of the substance. This applies whether chocolate is in candy bar form, or an ingredient in cake, cookies, puddings or ice cream.
If a pet becomes ill after eating chocolate, take it to the vet immediately.
Dark Chocolate Versus Milk Chocolate
Dark chocolate contains more cacao and less sugar than milk chocolate. It follows that any health benefits would be more pronounced in dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate is allowed on the popular Montaignac diet while milk chocolate is not.
You'll need to do a little research if you have any health concerns about eating chocolate. But with products like gluten-free and sugar-free brands finding their way onto supermarket shelves, you're sure to find some form of chocolate you can enjoy with a clear conscience.