Confessions of a Chocoholic
Here are my secrets for enjoying chocolate in moderation.
A Double Whammy
Think chocolate tastes good? Well, according to some researchers at Yale
University, it smells good too. They found that sniffing chocolate activated
different regions in the brain than tasting it did. You know what that tells
me? That doing both at the same time must be mind-blowing!
Next time you enjoy a bite or two of chocolate, try letting your nose really
appreciate it, too, and see if this enhances the experience.
You can also try the opposite -- tasting chocolate while pinching your nose
(this will block the air flow between the olfactory system and the mouth) to
see if there is a decrease in taste.
Health Benefits Abound (but Then, I'm Biased)
I love it when a new study comes out noting health benefit from eating
chocolate because it affirms my deep respect for the cacao bean. See, I told
you chocolate was good for you -- it even comes from a bean!
I'd better warn you, though, that the health benefits tend to involve dark
chocolate and cocoa powder rather than the more popular milk chocolate. Many of
the health benefits seem to stem from the antioxidant flavanols, which are also
found in other plant foods such as tea, grapes, grapefruit, and wine. The cocoa
bean happens to be extraordinarily rich in them.
The flavanol content of chocolate depends on the flavanol content of the
cacao plant used, and the way the cocoa was turned into chocolate. But
generally, cocoa powder and baking chocolate contain more flavonoids than dark
chocolate, dark chocolate has more than milk chocolate, and white chocolate has
Here are two possible health benefits from dark chocolate or cocoa (but keep
in mind that in most cases, more research needs to done):
Dark chocolate and cocoa may help:
- Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is due to the high
levels of the saturated fatty acid called stearic acid (which has been shown to
have a neutral effect on blood cholesterol) and flavonoids found in chocolate.
After a research review of 136 scientific publications, the researchers
concluded that studies suggest cocoa and chocolate may reduce heart disease risks by raising
HDL "good" cholesterol; lowering blood pressure; prevent the
oxidation of LDL "bad" cholesterol that leads to formation of plaque in
artery walls; and by its anti-inflammation and anticlotting actions. Different
types of studies on flavonoids suggest they likely help to protect against
death from heart disease.
- Decrease blood pressure. Results from a small Italian study suggest
that a hefty daily serving of dark chocolate (480 calories worth) may decrease
blood pressure and improve sensitivity to insulin (the hormone that allows your
body to use glucose for fuel). Studies done with other flavanol-containing
foods such as tea and wine, have shown similar favorable effects on blood