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Chocolate has Antioxidants!

New research published in the Medical Journal "Lancet", shows that eating chocolate could prevent cancer and heart disease and, contrary to popular belief, also fights tooth decay.

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The Good News

  • Research conducted by scientist from Holland's National Institute of Public Health and Environment shows that chocolates contain antioxidants called Catechins and Phenols. These antioxidants could prevent heart diseases and cancer.

  • Until now tea was thought to contain the largest amount of these antioxidants but this new research indicates that dark chocolate has four times as much as compared to tea.

  • The researchers found that dark chocolate had 53.5 mg of catechins per 100 gm, milk chocolate contains 15.9 mg per 100 gm, and the black tea contains 13.9 mg per 100 ml.

  • Higher levels of antioxidants are found in good quality 70-80% chocolate, and the highest levels of all are in products made from raw, unprocessed cocoa.
    Chocolate is like red wine - which is said to protect against heart disease, and also contains phenols. These reduce the presence of free radicals that damage cells and DNA. Phenols are said to prevent fat-like substances in the blood stream from oxidizing and clogging the arteries.

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Why are Phenols Important?

  • Atherosclerosis, or the formation of plaque in the arteries, is partly caused by oxidation of LDL (low density lipoprotein), a type of cholesterol particle. Initially this leads to subtle damage, and then eventually to the formation of advanced plaque. The build up of plaque can lead to clogging of the arteries, a major cause of heart attack and strokes.

  • By acting as an antioxidant, the phenols may slow down this process, thus averting heart attacks.

  • The researchers also believe that the cacao plant, from which chocolate and cocoa is derived, boosts the immune system and also restricts the formation of the type of cholesterol which damages the heart.

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More Good News

Researchers believe that most of the bad effects of eating chocolate are either overstated or entirely false.

  • Chocolate has not been proven to cause cavities or tooth decay. Rather, it helps thwart mouth bacteria and may reduce dental problems.

  • Eating chocolate neither causes nor aggravates acne, as is the general belief. Recent research has indicated that eating chocolate or not eating it does not produce any significant changes in most sufferers. It is more likely that acne can be aggravated by the type of saturated fat which is substituted for cocoa butter in cheap chocolate.

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Now for the Bad News!

However, as in the case of any other food, eating too much chocolate may cause health problems.

  • The cocoa butter in chocolate does contain saturated fat, which can increase blood cholesterol levels, and high cholesterol may contribute to heart disease.

  • Chocolate contains vaso-active amines, which are also found in red wine and mature cheese. These are chemicals which can trigger migraine attacks in certain individuals.

  • There are also significant levels of caffeine and other stimulants in chocolate, which can be a problem for sensitive people. For example, many women who suffer from premenstrual breast tenderness find relief when they refrain from tea, coffee and chocolate.

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Let's Finish With Some More Good News...

  • Consider taking your chocolate in the form of cocoa it contains only one third of a gram of fat per cup whilst an average 40g bar of chocolate includes 8g of fat!

  • Chocolate has recently become a popular cosmetic ingredient - the cocoa butter is nourishing, and the phenolic compounds provide anti-ageing activity.(Look at our scrumptious Chocolate Rejuvenation for an example.)

  • Look out for new healthier confectionery made with raw chocolate and low glycaemic sweeteners such as agave syrup or xylitol.

Links to raw chocolate products - Conscious Chocolate (our personal favourite) and RawChoco

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