It is not a surprise that the majority of people on earth are fond of eating chocolates. But only a handful number of people are conscious of its health impacts. People simply love to have chocolates due to its amazing combination of sweetness and bitterness. This article aims to provide some proven health-related positive facts about consuming chocolate products that every chocolate lover would be pleased to listen to.
Chocolates and its composition:
Chocolates are one of the most popular food types across the globe due to its unique taste. It is usually sweet, brownish to whitish in color. It can be found in liquid, paste or block form depending upon the manufacturer.
It is obtained from the seedlings of the Cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) preferably found in tropical regions. Dried and fermented seeds are often called as cocoa beans. Naturally, cacao seeds have intense bitter taste thus, they are further processed and refined to give the alluring flavor to chocolates.
There are commonly three popular varieties of chocolates namely dark, milk and white chocolates. All these varieties get their characteristics flavor due to the uneven blend of either of these ingredients like cocoa butter, sugar, milk, cocoa solids, milk powder, cocoa liquor, and vanilla. However, Cocoa is the key ingredient that determines the chocolaty flavor.
Millions of people are enjoying its flavour in different attractive shapes and forms every day. Many foodstuffs are loaded with taste of chocolates ranging from desserts like cakes, pudding, chocolate brownies, ice-cream, candies to cold and hot beverages items like chocolate milkshakes, hot chocolates.
Moreover, it has been accepted as part of different celebrations such as festivals, holidays, birthday, Valentine’s Day for long. This has led to increasing demand for chocolates over time. Despite its popularity, one should be smart enough to know its health impacts and consume accordingly.
Health Benefits of Chocolates:
The nutritive value of chocolates largely depends on types of chocolates, its composition and the amount consumed. In general sense, Chocolates is a good source of energy.
A good quality Dark chocolate is highly rich in nutrition. It is abundant in dietary fibers and plenty of mineral contents like iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium zinc and selenium. As per USDA reference, Milk chocolates are an excellent source of vitamin B2, Vitamin B12 and dietary minerals like manganese, phosphorus, and zinc.
Since quality dark chocolates consist up of a higher concentration of cocoa (over 70%), low in fat and sugar content; it is preferred over milk and white chocolates.
It is found that Cocoa beans contain more than 300 biologically active compounds that are beneficial to health. Cocoa is a rich source of useful phytochemicals like flavonoids and alkaloids like theobromine, phenethylamine, and caffeine.
Based on the research carried out on chocolates to the date, below is the short description of the major compounds and how these compounds contribute to better health of an individual.
- Flavanoids: Cocoa beans are fully packed with essential flavanoids and flavanols like Anthocyanidin and Epicatechins. Health benefits primarily come from the flavonoids content present in cocoa solids. Major of them are as follows;
Supports cardiovascular health: The study reveals that the flavonoids present favors proper heart functioning by lowering cholesterol amount in the blood and improving blood pressure.
- stimulate blood vessels to relax and allow proper blood flow over entire body cells with a constant supply of oxygen and essential nutrients. The authors concluded that eating chocolates could lower the risk of developing heart diseases by one third.
Improves mental condition: Researches performed at Harvard Medical School in 2013 suggests that drinking 2 cups of hot chocolates a day can keep your brain healthy by improving blood flow to different parts of the brain. It also reduces memory decline in older people.
- stimulate the production of more endorphins (feel-good hormones) and can provide relief from anxiety, depression and mental disorders.
- study in 2016 encourages to eat flavonoids rich chocolates at least once weekly for better intellectual activity.
Obesity and diabetes control: A study published in the Journal of Agriculture Food and Chemistry 2014 suggested that a flavanol in cocoa called Procyandins shall protect against body weight. The right dose of flavonoids helps in body metabolism and enhances insulin function. This can benefit to diabetes.
Protection of skin: Flavanols improve blood flow over the skin, keeps it well-hydrated thus, prevent from burning.
Antioxidants factors: They enable the destruction of free radicals present which in turn improves body function. Also, these powerful antioxidants control the oxidation of bad cholesterol allowing an increase in the availability of good cholesterol in the body. Thus, improves heart function. Some researches support that antioxidants present in chocolates even decrease the chances of cancer. It also slows down the sign of aging.
Caffeine and Theobromine Contents: It may improve brain function in the short term.
- theobromine present in chocolates has a marvelous effect on cough.
Other useful effects: Research in Atlanta concluded that daily intake of 30gm chocolates during pregnancy might benefit to growth and development of the fetus.
Eating chocolates can stimulate the effects of useful chemicals like Dopamine, Phenylethylamine, and Serotonin. This can act as a mood freshener and promotes feelings of well-being. Also, polyphenols fund in cocoa helps to keep us calm and happier.
Also, one experiment in 2014 indicates that Lavado, a cocoa extract can prevent and reduce damage to nerve pathways resulted in nervous diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
- It is found that chocolate may protect our body from inflammation.
- Chocolates may reduce unnecessary cravings for salty and sweet foods.
It is not the point that eating any kind of chocolates available in markets carries above mentioned health benefits. Only those chocolates containing an adequate amount of cocoa content are rich in flavonoids and other essential compounds. Negative effects generally come from additional ingredients like sugars, milk, fats, vegetable oil, added by the manufacturing company to attract the consumers.
It is said that ‘the darker; the better’ which means darker chocolates is better as it contains a high amount of cocoa with fewer fats and sugary contents. So, if you are really health conscious and want to stay away from side-effects of chocolates, read the label properly and set your preferences based on the quality content of chocolates. Having said that, to get more benefits, eat chocolates in moderation as nothing is good beyond its limit.
Above mentioned health benefits are based on the preliminary findings. Therefore, more advanced researches and study needs to be carried out to support the actual health benefits of chocolates and cocoa products.