• Dr. Todd Hurst, MD

It's All About the Chocolate

Updated: Oct 28, 2017

Welcome to Dr. Hurst's Health Questions Answered.

Is Chocolate Really Good for You?

Whoever said that anything good for you must be tasteless, didn’t know the benefits of cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate.

Chocolate is one of life’s joys for many of us, but several research studies have supported the idea that consumption of flavonoid-rich foods like cocoa may be associated with a reduced risk of heart attacks 32 and strokes 40. Flavonoids are plant derived compounds found in food products such as teas, citrus, red wine and cocoa.

How Does Chocolate Improve Health?

It has been hypothesized that the positive effects of the flavonoids found in cocoa occur through several different mechanisms, including cocoa’s antioxidant properties.

Although the exact mechanism is not known by which flavonoids have an antioxidant effect, researchers suggest the consumption of cocoa can augment your body’s oxidative defense. Flavonoids have also been shown to decrease the amount of inflammation in our blood vessels leading to healthier arteries.

Flavonoids have also been shown to decrease the stickiness of platelets. Platelets are the cells that help your body form clots. Decreasing platelet stickiness may also help prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Not All Chocolate is the Same

It is important to understand the difference between the natural product cocoa and processed product chocolate.

Chocolate contains cocoa, along with sugar, milk and other ingredients. When chocolate is made, it loses much of the flavonoids during fermentation and roasting.

According to a study done by the Hershey Company, the manufacturing of cocoa into chocolate reduces the flavonoid content by about 67%. Though some flavanoids are still present, there are fewer compared to natural cocoa.

Choosing the type of chocolate is also important. Whether you love Hersheys, Lindt, Dove, or Ghiradellei, what is most important to remember is the amount of cocoa in the chocolate bar. Just remember, darker is better. The darker the chocolate, the higher the percent of cocoa, the more flavanoids you consume. Some cocoa bars contain up to 88% cocoa.

Be cautious, however, and indulge in moderation. 100 grams of dark chocolate can set you back over 500 calories and 30 grams of fat each day. Though there is no perfect amount, limiting yourself to one small square (about 30 cal) of dark chocolate each day may satisfy your chocolate craving, make you healthier and keep you on track for your weight loss 46 goals.