Cocoa and chocolate contain a large amount of antioxidants (flavinoids). Cocoa and dark chocolate may keep high blood pressure down and reduce the blood’s ability to clot, thus the risk of stroke and heart attacks may be reduced. The darker chocolate with the most concentrated cocoa will be the most beneficial. According to an Italian study, a small square (20 g) of dark (bittersweet) chocolate every three days is the ideal dose for cardiovascular benefits. Eating more does not provide additional benefits.
The nutrition values presented below are based on review of a selection of brands. Variations outside the given ranges can be expected. Numbers are % by weight, not % of daily value.
|Ingredient||Cocoa – low fat
|Cocoa – high fat
|Unsweetened chocolate||Bittersweet chocolate||Semisweet chocolate and baking chocolate|
|Calories per oz||ca 60||ca 90||140-150||150-160||130-160|
|Calories per 100 g||ca 200||ca 300||470-500||500-550||450-550|
Cocoa beans contain approximately 50% fat. It is primarily comprised of two saturated fatty acids (palmitic and stearic acids) and one mono-unsaturated acid (oleic acid). Cocoa butter and chocolate do not raise blood cholesterol. However, when consuming milk chocolate or lower grade chocolate where a part of the total fat content comes from milk fat or various other types of fat, the cholesterol level might be adversely affected.
The cacao bean contains quite a lot of carbohydrates, but most of it is starch, soluble dietary fibers, and insoluble dietary fibers. A very small proportion is simple sugars. Sugar is added during the manufacture of chocolate.
Cocoa beans contain polyphenols (similar to those found in wine) with antioxidant properties which are health beneficial. These compounds are called flavonoids and include catechins, epicatechins, and procyandins. The antioxidant flavinoids are found in the nonfat portions of the cocoa bean. The flavinoids also reduce the blood’s ability to clot and thus reduces the risk of stroke and heart attacks.
Theobromine is a very mild stimulant with a mild diuretic action (increases the production of urine). Theobromine can be toxic to animals like dogs, cats, parrots and horses.
Cocoa beans contains a very low amount of caffeine, much less than found in coffee, tea and cola drinks.
Phenylethylamine is a slight antidepressant and stimulant similar to the body’s own dopamine and adrenaline.
Cocoa and chocolate can increase the level of serotonine in the brain. Serotonine levels are often decreased in people with depression and in those experiencing PMS symptoms.
Cocoa beans are rich in a number of essential minerals, including magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese.
A, B1, B2, B3, C, E and pantothenic acid.
Evidence of chocolate’s heart-healthy powers is growing, but can the stuff really help with diabetes? Yes, according to new research.
Actually, it’s all related. Insulin sensitivity is a well-established risk factor for cardiovascular disease. In the recent study, researchers found that subjects who ate 100 grams of chocolate daily (about one bar) had reduced insulin resistance and improved liver enzymes.
The scientists, from the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), the University of Warwick Medical School, the University of South Australia and the University of Maine, analyzed data from 1,153 people between the ages of 18 and 69 years who were part of the Observation of Cardiovascular Risk in Luxembourg study. Their results were published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
“Given the growing body of evidence, including our own study, cocoa-based products may represent an additional dietary recommendation to improve cardio-metabolic health; however, observational results need to be supported by robust trial evidence,” Saverio Stranges, MD, PhD, visiting academic at the University of Warwick Medical School and scientific director of the Department of Population Health at LIH, said in a university release.
“Potential applications of this knowledge include recommendations by healthcare professionals to encourage individuals to consume a wide range of phytochemical-rich foods, which can include dark chocolate in moderate amounts,” Stranges said. “However, it is important to differentiate between the natural product cocoa and the processed product chocolate, which is an energy-dense food.” Needless to say, processed, sugar-rich chocolate probably would not help with diabetes.