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Nutrition Column

Chocoholics have a healthy reason to celebrate

Favorable health effects have been found with consumption of cocoa powder and dark chocolate.

While Iíve long recommended to my clients that there is no forbidden food, I didnít think Iíd actually be recommending chocolate for positive health benefits. Iíve tried to reinforce that it is better psychologically to nurture your cravings and eat your favorite foods out in the open rather than in the car or closet hidden from family & friends, without the TV on, without a book or magazine open, without distraction. Eating them without shame and without guilt. Albeit eating those foods in moderation.

There truly should be no forbidden foods, well maybe a couple, but those that are unhealthy should be eaten in limited amounts. And even this latest research on chocolate comes with the caveat that chocolate, too, needs to be eaten with restraint.

Can eating chocolate really be good for you? According to a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition the answer is yes.

Researchers published their findings that can comfort some of the guilt of chocolate lovers out there. Subjects were divided into those on a typical American diet and those on an average American diet supplemented with 22 grams of cocoa powder and 16 grams of dark chocolate. The addition of chocolate to the diet significantly reduced the susceptibility of LDL-cholesterol tooxidation, increased HDL-cholesterol levels and increased total serum antioxidant activity. These positive changes all occurred without any adverse effect on prostaglandin levels.

Cocoa and dark chocolate are a rich source of polyphenols. Much attention has been given to these flavonoids and their antioxidant potential and protection against heart disease.

What does all this mean? Based on this and other studies, cocoa and dark chocolate can decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Sounds great but proceed with caution. While chocolate contains polyphenols that inhibit LDL oxidation, it is high in saturated fat, total fat, sugar, and is a calorically dense food. Too much chocolate will raise your dietary saturated fat intake and blood cholesterol levels.

To get your chocolate fix, cocoa can be used in recipes rather than chocolate and provides the same health benefits as dark chocolate without the added sugar and fat. But remember for optimal health, like all fats and sweets eat them in moderation.

Written by Dr. Sternlicht for on 11.09.05