Let's start with the difference between chocolate and cocoa/cacao. If you've ever mixed powdered cocoa into milk or thought it would be fun idea to take a taste of the powder while baking you know that it tastes nothing like chocolate.
Cocoa and chocolate are by-products coming from the cacao tree and it's beans. The beans are fermented, roasted, shelled, ground and turned into a paste before it can be made into either cocoa or chocolate.
Removing the cocoa butter decreases the amount of sugar and fat leaving mostly the high level of antioxidants chocolate is known for. The reported health benefits are found in the cocoa powder or cacoa nibs (bean).
It shouldn't come as a surprise that chocolate companies take advantage of the health benefit coming from cocoa. They want to pull one over on you, convincing you of chocolate's health benefits and charging a premium for 'quality' dark chocolate.
Sorry to burst your bubble... chocolate in bar form is junk food. It doesn't matter if it's organic, dark chocolate or made from the cacao bean or not. Read the ingredients. If sugar is listed then it's junk food that will raise blood sugar levels and contribute to fat storage.
1. The research studies touting that chocolate is full of antioxidants only relate chocolate to the outcomes of the studies. Research studies are typically conducted on single food fractions and not whole foods. The research done on cacoa/cocoa (English version) was positive because it wasn't done on the whole food chocolate.
2. 70% dark chocolate contains a whopping 250 calories for just 1.5 ounces or 4 squares. If you 'treat' yourself a couple times a week you will rack up an additional 2000 calories in one month.
3. Chocolate can be just as addictive as drugs. Cocoa products also contain pharmacological substances such as n-acylethanolamines. They contain stimulants such as phenylethylamine, which have an anti-depressant and amphetamine-like effect; and they contain compounds that stimulate the brain to release an opiate-likesubstance.
When drugs are used to block the brain's opiate receptors, the desire for chocolate (and other sweet and fatty foods) disappears -- confirming the addictive nature of these types of foods.
4. Cocoa is very high in copper. The high sugar content in chocolate increaseschromium requirements (chromium is an associated trace mineral to copper). The resulting high copper / low chromium ratio creates an increased risk for bone loss, and it can trigger or worsen blood sugar-related, and/or inflammatory conditions that may raise the risk or incidence of chronic tonsil infections, recurring bladder infections, some forms of arthritis, or similar problems of the immune system in prone individuals.
5. Dark chocolate is touted for being high in antioxidants. The health benefits of polyphenols (antioxidants) are easily demonstrated in a test-tube environment, however cocoa also happens to be very high in Copper, which unfortunately inhibits the action of certain flavonoids, particularly Hesperidin, which is an essentialbioflavinoid.
This can lead to a greater incidence of vascular degeneration such as varicose veins, hemorrhoids, aneurysms, bruising, heart disease, and stroke in those with elevated copper levels.
Want the real health benefits of cocoa then just consume cocoa in its raw form. Ditch the sugar and fat laden $7 dollar organic chocolate bar. Even if you can eat just one bite the sweet buttery taste entices you to keep on eating.
Adding cocoa powder to smoothies or chomping on raw cacoa nibs is the best way to incorporate the high level of antioxidants and get the real health benefits found in the bean.
Check out the Chocolate Chia Muffin recipe on the recipe tab. Let me know what you think.
In good health,
Cheryl Wahl, RHN, Personal Trainer