The good and the bad for chocolate lovers

By Barbara Gutierrez

The good and the bad for chocolate lovers

By Barbara Gutierrez
With the recent celebration of World Chocolate Day and National Milk Chocolate Day around the corner, it is a good time to remember some of the benefits of chocolate.

Chocolate lovers everywhere usually devour news about the benefits of their favorite food.

It seems that every day a new study surfaces about this treasured item that was considered sacred to the Maya and can be traced back 5,300 years ago.

Chocolate played an important political, spiritual, and economic role in ancient Mesoamerican civilizations, who grounded roasted cacao beans into a paste that they mixed with water, vanilla, chili peppers, and other spices to brew a frothy chocolate drink, according to history.com.

With World Chocolate Day celebrated earlier this month and National Milk Chocolate Day (yes, there is such a thing) being celebrated on July 28, this seems a fitting time to reexamine what benefits chocolate offers.

Elizabeth Ferrer, a clinical dietitian for the University of Miami Health System, suggests that one should approach chocolate in moderation. 

“Chocolate should not be a daily occurrence,” said Ferrer. She also suggests that you should be mindful of how much you eat. “Practice mindful eating,” she added.

With that in mind, there is considerable data that shows that chocolate—especially cacao beans and dark chocolate—have multiple health benefits.

The list includes the following:

Antioxidants: Chocolate contains antioxidants that help with blood flow, heart health, blood pressure, and brain health. 

Nutrients: Chocolate contains a good amount of nutrients that are essential for body health. These include iron, copper, potassium, zinc, and magnesium.

Fiber: Many people do not associate fiber as being a part of chocolate. Dark chocolate contains a surprising amount of fiber.

Can help with diabetes: The fiber and fat in chocolate helps regulate sugar levels and spikes for diabetics.

It makes one feel good: Chocolate contains tryptophan, an amino acid that triggers and increases serotonin, a mood stabilizer that incurs happiness and contentment.

It is important to keep in mind, Ferrer said, that most milk chocolate can contain a considerable amount of sugar and other additives. Therefore, it is important to read the label. Recent dietary guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends limiting calories from added sugars to less than 10 percent of total calories per day.

According to Ferrer, one should keep in mind that the most healthful chocolate is the cacao bean itself.

“Many people use cacao nibs in oatmeal, smoothies, and baked goods,” she said. Dark chocolate, which is made from the seed of the cacao tree, is the next best thing. The darker the chocolate, the better,” she added.

To satisfy that craving for chocolate, Ferrer suggests that “one good option is to eat two ounces of dark chocolate twice a week.” She noted that dark chocolate is strong and will provide a host of health benefits.