Chocolate -- and Your Health
Q: Is there much difference between chocolate bar brands?
A: The principal ingredient of commercial chocolate bars and candy is not
cocoa, but sugar, along with saturated vegetable fat and powdered milk. This
has gained chocolate a reputation as fattening, tooth-decaying junk food.
However, true chocolate -- manufactured from natural ingredients -- is far
healthier and contains higher percentages of cocoa solids and lower percentages
Q: Are there any health benefits associated with eating chocolate besides
enjoying the taste or satisfying a craving?
A: A University of California, Davis, researcher has spent several years
studying the possible health benefits of certain antioxidants found in
chocolate. These antioxidants --phenolic compounds, also known as flavonoids --
are the same compounds found in red wine that give it antioxidant properties.
Phenolics can help protect against or slow heart disease by preventing fat-like
substances (LDL, or low-density lipoproteins) in the bloodstream from oxidizing
and forming plaque that can eventually block arteries. Although chocolate also
contains the saturated fatty acid called stearic acid, it has been shown in
scientific studies to have a neutral effect on blood cholesterol. One study
conducted at Pennsylvania State University with healthy, young, adult male
students showed that eating one standard-sized milk chocolate bar a day did not
affect blood cholesterol.