Dark Chocolate: Your Sweet Surprising Health Hack

 

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Jamil Abdur-Rahman, M.D., FACOG

Life Is Like A Box of Dark Chocolate

In the words of the immortal Forrest Gump, “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”! Well friends today, you’re gonna get some sweet if not slightly surprising medical advice from your old buddy Dr. J! Eat Chocolate! Embrace chocolate! Chocolate is your friend, and you should consume chocolate without shame or fear of reprisal. The reason? Well simply put, because chocolate is good for you. Now, before you take that last statement and start to consume chocolate with reckless abandon, allow me to establish a few healthy chocolate eating ground rules for you.

Dark Chocolate: Your Sweet Surprising Health Hack

The Darker The Better

While Forrest’s Mom use to equate the randomness of life to a box of chocolates; growing up, my Mom use to equate the color of my and my brother’s brown skin to that of the many shades of berry found growing in our back yard. Frequent was the summer day that my brother and I would come in from playing, our skin sun kissed and golden brown, only to be greeted at the back door by our Mother with the image affirming utterance  “um um, do you boys look good! God knows, the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice”! Well, a variation of that same utterance can be used when drawing a parallel between chocolate and your health. The darker the chocolate, the healthier the chocolate.

Dark Chocolate: Your Sweet Surprising Health Hack

Why Is Darker Chocolate Healthier Chocolate?

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans. Cocoa beans are simply the dried seeds of the Cocoa Tree. When processed, cocoa beans basically yield two components, cocoa and cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is the oily fat of the cocoa bean. Cocoa, also known as “Cocoa Solids” basically refers to everything else other than cocoa butter that is derived from processed cocoa beans. The more cocoa or cocoa solids found in a piece of chocolate, the “darker” that chocolate is said to be. So basically, “dark chocolate” is chocolate with lots of cocoa.

Dark Chocolate: Your Sweet Surprising Health Hack

It’s All About The Cocoa

Cocoa is rich in a group of plant-based chemicals called flavonoids. When consumed, flavonoids promote good health in a number of different ways. For starters, flavonoids are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants promote good health both by preventing damage to the body’s cells and tissue and by helping to repair damage to the body’s cells and tissue if it should occurs. Flavonoids also promote good health by preventing inflammation. And if you didn’t know, inflammation plays a major role in a number of different disease states. We’re talking about things like heart disease, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, asthma and even a number of cancers. In addition to acting as inflammation busting antioxidants, flavonoids also give the body’s immune system a boost, helping it to fight against a number of different infection causing germs.

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All Good Things Should Be Consumed In Moderation

While dark chocolate is SUPER good for you, it is still important to remember that all good things should be consumed in moderation. And, when that “good thing” is dark chocolate, “moderation” means eating no more than 1 to 2 ounces per day. Limiting your dark chocolate intake to 1 to 2 ounces per day allows you to enjoy the numerous health benefits that eating dark chocolate can confer, while at the same time avoiding excess in-take of both the fat and the calories that are typically found in all chocolates, including dark ones. As a VERY generic rule of thumb, most dark chocolate squares are 1 ounce. So, eating one to two dark chocolate squares every day is likely all you need to consume to enjoy dark chocolate’s health benefits while avoiding its excess fat and calories.

2 ounces of dark chocolate

2 Ounces of Dark Chocolate

The Case For Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate, rich in the cell damage preventing, inflammation busting, immune system boosting flavonoids found in cocoa is almost like a wonder drug, right? I mean, we’ve already established that eating 1 to 2 ounces of dark chocolate every day can help to combat heart disease, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, asthma, certain cancers and infections caused by certain germs. But, that’s not all that dark chocolate can do! Research has also demonstrated that eating 1 to 2 ounces of dark chocolate a day can also lower blood pressure, lower levels of bad cholesterol, raise levels of good cholesterol, improve brain function, improve fertility and even protect the skin against sun damage. So friends, while life may be like a box in chocolates; and while you may never know exactly what you’re gonna get, I’m happy to tell you that eating 1 to 2 ounces of dark chocolate every day can lessen the likelihood that you’re “gonna get” sick. So chow down!!

Dark Chocolate: Your Sweet Surprising Health Hack

A Little Dark Chocolate Bonus!!

Oh yeah, and did I mention that eating dark chocolate is also good for your eyesight? Yep….it’s true! Take it from these two chocolate men!!