Skip to content
Font Size
A
A
A

Chocolate's Dark Secret

From religious elixir to lover's treat to health food? The new truth about chocolate.

If you think chocolate is heavenly, you're not alone. Chocolate literally is the "food of the gods" -- that's what its botanical name, Theobroma cacao, means. But you needn't be divine to indulge. Mere mortals adore chocolate in all its forms, from the humble chocolate chip cookie to gourmet goodies, wintry hot chocolate, and decadent desserts. And to make chocolate even more drool-worthy, researchers are discovering this ancient treat may have some modern health benefits.

Q: When was chocolate first discovered?

Recommended Related to Sex & Relationships

Marriage Makeover: "2 Jobs, 2 Kids — Where Does Our Marriage Fit In?"

With two fast-paced careers, a toddler, and another baby on the way, Meghan and Jeremy Wilker have let their marriage drop to the bottom of their to-do list. Can REDBOOK Love Network expert Jane Greer, Ph.D., help them finally make time for each other? Meghan and Jeremy Wilker are both at the top of their career game. Meghan, 32, runs a company that constructs Websites, and Jeremy, 38, recently launched two companies: one sells fine-art photo prints online; the other is a digital photo...

Read the Marriage Makeover: "2 Jobs, 2 Kids — Where Does Our Marriage Fit In?" article > >

A: Chocolate dates back centuries. The Mayans traded valuable cacao beans, from which chocolate is made, as a commodity. In 1519, the Aztecs discovered that they could make a delicious drink by adding water and sweeteners to roasted, ground-up cacao beans. The chocolate bar came along later in the 18th century, by mixing chocolate with milk.

Q: Are all chocolates good for you?

A: Chocolate lovers, rejoice -- but be savvy about chocolate's health perks. Chocolate really can be good for you, but not all chocolate is created equally. If you're after health benefits, forget the chewy, caramel, marshmallow or cream-covered chocolates and look for solid dark chocolate.

Q: Why is dark chocolate a better choice than white or milk chocolate?

A: The health benefits of chocolate come from flavonoids, a type of phytochemical found in the cacao bean. Dark chocolate contains a higher percentage of cocoa than white or milk chocolate. And the more cocoa a chocolate product contains, the richer its health-promoting content.

Q: What are the health benefits of dark chocolate?

A: Research has shown that when dark chocolate is part of a healthy lifestyle, it can improve heart health, blood pressure, reduce LDL "bad" cholesterol, and increase blood flow to the brain. It may also improve blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, reducing diabetes risk.

Q: How much chocolate should I eat to get the health benefits?

A: Limit the portion size because even though dark chocolate contains good-for-you flavonoids, it also has not-so-good-for-you fat, sugar, and calories. Overindulging in chocolate can undo any health benefits and lead to weight gain and related health problems.

1 | 2 | 3
Next Article:

What physical changes do you experience when in love?