Saturday, September 18, 2010

0 Health Benefit of the Week: Chocolate!

Chocolate desserts are possibly my favorite. To me there's nothing more than biting into a forkful of pie or cake that pairs the distinct aromatic flavors of chocolate with other interesting flavors and textures. It wasn't until this past year that I heard about the potential health benefits of eating chocolate. But honestly, how healthy can a sugar packed, cream filled chocolate bar be?

Tasty yet functional?

A Short History of Chocolate

The cocoa bean is native to Mexico and Central America, and has been used in food and drinks for thousands of years. Aztecs and Mayans used chocolate in drinks such as tea, or as a fermentation agent in alcohols. Central Americans also utilized chocolate medically to cure ailments such as fatigue and diarrhea. 

After the Americas were conquered by Europe, settlers first harvested cocoa  for the royalty, and eventually for common European citizens. It wasn't until the 19th century and the Industrial revolution that cocoa was processed into the solid chocolate we are familiar with today.

Are there any health benefits to eating chocolate?

Yes, but a lot of the net benefits of chocolate depend upon what type of chocolate you eat.
  • The consumption of cocoa and dark chocolate benefits the circulatory system, specifically by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Chocolate contains antioxidants, with cocoa containing the highest percentage, followed by dark chocolate, and milk chocolate in a distant third.
  • Some research has shown that chocolate can help reduce migraines. However, this effect does not exist as much in milk chocolate due to its high sugar and fat content.
  • Other research has shown that dark chocolate helps stimulate the mind.
In general, the rule of thumb with chocolate is that dark chocolate is the healthiest of chocolates, due to its low sugar and fat content (since the sugar and fat content in milk chocolate can lead to obesity if over-consumed). Also, a tip for if you want to absorb the maximum amount of antioxidants in dark chocolates, some research has shown that drinking milk with the chocolate prevents the body from absorbing the antioxidants.

Hope that y'all enjoyed this article, and more recipe posts to follow today and tomorrow!

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