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The Nutrition Centre

The Dish on Chocolate


chocolate dessertRecent newscasts and magazine articles have been suggesting that chocolate is heart healthy. But before you stock up on this sweet treat, there are some things that you should know.


Chocolatey goodness


Recent studies have shown that dark chocolate, when eaten as part of a healthy diet, may have some benefits to heart health. Dark chocolate - specifically cocoa powder - contains antioxidants that are protective to the heart. Studies also show that dark chocolate can help decrease blood pressure levels (high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease). It is important to note that in all of the studies only dark, unsweetened chocolate that was relatively low in both fat and sugar was used. Dark chocolate is quite different from the standard sweet, rich, milky chocolate that is commonly found in Canadian chocolate bars and candy. In fact, the studies showed that milk chocolate and white chocolate do not offer the same heart health benefits that dark chocolate offers, because they don't contain the same level of antioxidants.


Chocolate - too much of a good thing?


Furthermore, the studies used far more chocolate than most people would normally eat - 100 grams, or the equivalent of two or three standard-size dark chocolate bars every day. Adding 100 grams of dark chocolate to your diet would add a whopping 500 extra calories and 30 grams of fat, which would likely cause weight gain - and wipe out any of the health benefits from the dark chocolate. For heart health, it is not recommended to eat 500 calories worth of chocolate on a daily basis. It's still too soon to say if eating less than 100 grams of dark chocolate will have any heart health benefits.


A better way to benefit from chocolate


Dark chocolate is just one of many antioxidant-containing foods that can be part of a healthy diet. Flavanols, the type of antioxidant found in dark chocolate, are also found in berries, grapes and tea. Including a small amount of dark chocolate in your diet is safe and healthy, but it is important to rely on healthy fruits like blueberries, cherries and grapes for their antioxidant power, not just on chocolate.


The best advice?


The dietitians at Becel (www.becel.ca) say that you should consider dark chocolate a true luxury and enjoy the melt-in-your mouth delicacy in moderation. When you do indulge, she suggests that you look for high-quality dark chocolate that contains at least 60% cocoa solids. This will ensure that the maximum amounts of antioxidants are present in your treat.


- News Canada





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