Chocolate? As a Health Benefit?

Angely Mondestin's picture
Is chocolate really as harmful as the world makes it out to be? I remember coming home one night after trick-or-treating and gazing into my huge pillowcase full of candy. I can vividly recall selfishly eating most of it all in one night and feeling incredibly ashamed and guilty that I had done so. My mom spitefully reproached me with all the horrible things that were going to happen to me if I continued to act so carelessly. Chocolate has attained such a negative reputation throughout the years, and it is often referred to as the devil’s candy. Unfortunately, not many people know that this sensuous and sinful candy actually produces beneficial health related results.

Chocolate contains more than 400 chemicals one of which being a natural substance known as flavonoid, which is found in plants and helps to keep blood vessels flexible (1). These flavonoids are also rich in antioxidants that help fight damage due to free radicals, which are caused by harmful contaminants from the environment. If we are deficient in antioxidants, our LDL cholesterol oxidation level increases and plaque begins to grow on our arterial walls (1). Many people take antioxidants and vitamins everyday to prevent plaque development, but what they do not know is that a cocoa, the source of chocolate, could serve as a substitute. These helpful nutrients have also been proven to reduce the formation of platelets in the body and the sheer smell of chocolate increases theta brain waves (3). This must be why eating chocolate causes you to become so relaxed.

Chemicals such as endorphins, natural painkillers in our body, create a pleasurable ambiance while the neurotransmitter serotonin acts as an antidepressant (5). “Endorphins also bring on a relaxed state of mind, enable more oxygen to reach our inner blood supply and even improve our memory” (6). This accounts for the satisfied sensation that is felt directly after indulging in chocolate. I should test this information by eating a piece of chocolate while I’m studying and right before a major test to see how much information I retained. This could then open up new observations that other scientists could look into. Cocoa, the source of chocolate, contains high levels of phenolen that has been scientifically proven to lower the risk of heart disease (6). Yes, you are reading this correctly. Chocolate, a candy that has one of the most negative connotations concerning health, can actually reduce the chances of getting coronary heart disease.

Chocolate contains large quantities of magnesium, and potassium, some levels of sodium and calcium, along with several vitamins including A1, B1, B2, D, and E. High levels of catechin, an antioxidant found in chocolate, assists in the bodies fight against cardiovascular disease and maybe even cancer (4). Along with this amazing discovery is anadaminde, one of the ingredients in chocolate that imitates the effects of marijuana, which produces a mild “high” by inhibiting brain receptors (4). Now I know why our brains are under the misconception that chocolate is so addictive. Another substance known as theobromine assists muscular energy while at the same time arouses the central nervous system (4). Hey, maybe this will encourage me to start eating a bar of chocolate before I go workout at the gym.

Have you ever wondered why people buy a box of chocolates as a gift for Valentines Day? Well a chemical in chocolate called phenylethylamine is “released in our bodies when we fall in love and is chemically similar to amphetamines, therefore acting as a psycho-stimulant” (4). From this, we can now understand why chocolate is always equated with love. So if you are trying to get that certain someone to fall in love with you, a box of chocolates is the way to go. Who knows, it might even do the trick. After all of this advantageous information, why, then, is chocolate given such a bad name? Let’s go over and attempt to breakdown the common myths that are associated with this yummy treat. For starters, chocolate has been considered one of the many causes of acne. However, it has been scientifically proven that this is, indeed, false (5).

Another misconception that kids hear dentists constantly recite is that chocolate will rot your teeth. It has actually been confirmed that it does nothing of the sort: “while both cocoa and chocolate contain sugar, they also have properties that work against sugar’s tendency to produce the oral bacteria that eventually leads to dental decay” (5). Studies performed at the Eastman Dental Center in Rochester, New York also show that milk chocolate is the least likely snack to aid in tooth decay because of the phosphate and other favorable minerals that are in it (5).Dentists can now rest assured knowing that the morning after Halloween won’t be so bad after all.

Although we have now learned that chocolate has many positive attributes, some are more favorable than others are. It is a known fact that “dark chocolate contains more cocoa and less sugar than milk chocolate,” and it also preserves the highest level of flavonoids (3, 1). Research shows that the antioxidants in dark chocolate and cocoa powder show a significant increase in HDL cholesterol and studies note that dark chocolate is more evident in health benefits (2).

While I have illustrated many of the positive factors of chocolate, I don’t encourage everyone to go out and by a year supply of it on the spot. I am just providing people with the information and the notion that they don’t have to feel guilty for buying a candy bar once and awhile. Who knows, maybe new tests will arrive in the future that will completely disprove my observations and findings. But until then, you can now indulge in your fantasies with a clear conscience.

WWW Sources

1.) http://www.clevelandclinic.org/heartcenter/pub/guide/prevention/nutrition/chocolate.htm ; The Heart-Health Benefits of Chocolate Unveiled

2.) http://archives.cnn.com/2000/HEALTH/diet.fitness/02/02/chocolate.wmd/; Chocolate: A heart-healthy confection

3.) http://www.momscape.com/articles/chocolate.html; The Health Benefits of Chocolate

4.) http://medscicommunications.com/just_for_fun.html; Chocolate…Food of the Gods

5.) http://chinesefood.about.com/library/weekly/aa013100a.html; Health Benefits of Chocolate 6.) http://kyky.essortment.com/benefitsofch_rqsx.html; The Benefits of Chocolate

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