It’s nice when something that you like turns out to be good for you. And that does seem to be the case for chocolate-lovers everywhere. Over the last few years there has been a number of studies which suggest that chocolate exerts beneficial effects on the physiology of the body that would be expected to be disease-protective, especially with regard to heart disease.
For example, chocolate is rich in so-called polyphenols (also found in foods like apples, red grapes, coffee and tea) that have antioxidant action. It is these, and perhaps the presence of other compounds, that help to explain the fact that chocolate has been found to have considerable antioxidant potential. Chocolate eating has been shown to have the capacity to lower blood pressure and enhance insulin sensitivity too ” both things that would be expected to protect against cardiovascular disease.
So, maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised about the findings of a recently published study that suggests chocolate eating may be beneficial for heart attack survivors . This research, conducted in Sweden, assessed the chocolate eating habits of 1169 individuals in the year prior to having a heart attack. These individuals were assessed after discharge from hospital for a period of 8 years.
More frequent chocolate consumption was associated with a reduced risk of dying from a heart-related condition. Compared to those who never ate chocolate, those eating chocolate up to once a week had a 44 per cent reduced risk of cardiac-related death. Those eating chocolate at least twice a week had a 66 per cent reduction in risk.
Epidemiological studies of this nature cannot be used to conclude that chocolate improves the outlook of heart attack survivors, only that this association exists. However, the fact that chocolate has a number of beneficial effects within the body makes the idea that chocolate eating can benefit health plausible.
I advise those who want to get the maximum value whatever benefits chocolate has to offer to opt for dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids or more). Dark chocolate contains more polyphenols than other varieties, and less sugar.
Janszky I, et al. Chocolate consumption and mortality following a first acute myocardial infarction: the Stockholm Heart Epidemiology Program. Journal of Internal Medicine 2009;266(3):248-257
I would advise people to who want to get the maximum benefits to eat chocolate with no sugar in, period. I.e. unsweetened cocoa powder. Sprinkled liberally on other healthy foods like fruit and coconut cream this can taste fantastic without having the ill effects of sugar consumption. The thing about sugar is that it’s hard (for many people) to eat it in moderation. Stories like this make people think it’s okay to eat chocolate a few times a week… which in itself may be okay, but the effect of that is to desensitise their palates to healthier food and create a precedent for other sugar-containing foods to creep into their diet.
Chocolate Almond Milk Recipe
1 cup almond milk
Cocoa powder to taste
A few dates or agave syrup to taste for some low GI/GL sweetness
Whizz the lot in a blender, use a frozen banana for extra fluffiness!
When science could be conducting really useful studies, like varying amounts of different oils in the diet or carefully comparing high-carb to low-carb, they study chocolate.
And the message of such studies, which the average American crabs hold of? Eat your crappy diet, but have chocolate a few times a week for a healthy heart. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
That almond milk sounds good but I’d nix the banana. My version is cocoa powder mixed with milk into a paste with a couple of Splenda tabs and a few drops of peppermint oil, then topped up with hot water. Liquid After Eights!
I do a couple of squares of 85% chocolate (Co-Op has an offer on their Fairtrade version again, or else Green And Blacks). Quite how much it helps with my BP I don’t know, but it tastes good: along with berries it’s about the only sweet I do and it generates insufficient glucose to spike my BG, which would not be true for that banana!