Is eating chocolate healthy?

There is always a debate about chocolate. Is it healthy or is it not?

The answer may lie in the portion size or, as the old saying goes, dosage makes the poison.

As with everything else in nutrition and diet, the health benefits or risks of eating chocolate is a controversial topic. Every new study that comes along seems to throw doubt on the one before. Nowhere is this more true than in discussions of the health risks and possible benefits of eating chocolate. The answer, like much else in nutrition, may lie in considering the amount consumed.

One major reason that chocolate often makes the news is that it does contain a class of phytochemicals called flavonoids, in particular one called epicatechin. Flavonoids are known to have circulatory system benefits. That much is not in dispute. They are antioxidants, which help remove free radicals from the blood stream. Free radicals are charged atoms that can harm cells.

But from that point, opinions diverge. Some argue that the presence of those antioxidants is enough to declare that chocolate does have some health benefits. Others point out that the presence of fat and sugar in chocolate products outweighs the benefits, and that flavonoids are present in other foods, such as vegetables. Those other foods don't have the high fat and sugar content that chocolate so often does.

Here again, the old pharmacological rule may be helpful. 'Dosage makes the poison'. Anything is harmful in large enough quantities, even water. It can expand cell membranes to a dangerous degree. In moderate amounts, even fat and sugar have positive benefits.

Complex sugars are to be preferred because they take longer to break down, but simple sugars are still carbohydrates and provide needed energy, without which life would be impossible. Fat, too, in modest amounts performs useful biological functions. It helps regulate certain hormones in the brain and is also a type of carbohydrate that can provide quick, needed energy.

One major form of fat in chocolate is stearic acid, a saturated fat. Those are generally not preferred, since in general they can increase the 'bad' type of cholesterol. Though some studies suggest that stearic acid, as found in chocolate, does not contribute to that and in fact may help lower it.

The problem arises when these are consumed in high quantities, which is easy to do when eating a chocolate bar or chocolate ice cream.

Health benefits of chocolate

Chocolate has always been a forbidden food. We love it but we aren't supposed to. Now you can love it, like it and have more of it if you want. The experts have found out that there really ARE health benefits to eating your chocolate.

New discoveries regarding chocolate

Like we said, chocolate has gotten a bad rap, until now. With the various types of chocolate, the one thing that is different is the amount of cocoa solids in each. Cocoa solids are made up of cocoa butter and cocoa.

The health benefits of the world's favorite sinful treat come from the cocoa bean. Chocolate varieties that contain the most cocoa solids are the best for you.

So, here's the skinny. Chocolate is found to contain antioxidants. As we all are aware, antioxidants are substances that everyone wants to get their hands on these days. They help the body fight the ravages of time by combating free radicals in the body. The type of antioxidant found in chocolate is a flavonoid called flavonol.

Flavonoids work on the cardiovascular system. In any artery, high cholesterol levels can lead to fatty deposits adhering to the walls. These hard deposits are called plaques. They narrow the opening of the artery leading to an increase in blood pressure and the possibility of stroke.

High levels of flavonoids help to reduce that risk. They prevent cholesterol plaques from forming and ruining blood vessels. Cocoa beans have as much antioxidant flavonoids as red wine, blueberries, tea and other food substances that are antioxidant-rich.

People who eat chocolate, dark chocolate that is, also have lower blood sugar. Unlike other chocolate varieties, dark chocolate doesn't spike blood sugar levels. This is a great thing because now you can eat dark chocolate, satisfy your craving and not crave any more afterwards.

Don't forget that over eating any food, especially chocolate, can have negative effects. In other words, we're not suggesting you sit down and eat an entire box of candy bars. However, if you do, be prepared for the crash that will come once the sugar high is gone.

Who knew that chocolate was good for your heart and your mind? Will it replace the apple a day to keep the doctor away? Maybe not, but it is the sweetest way to help your health that we know of.